The government removed Ministry of Water Resources Secretary of State Ngor Pin on Thursday because the Funcinpec party member had defected to the Norodom Ranariddh Party, officials said.
Water Resources Minister Lim Kean Hor said by telephone that Ngor Pin had joined an opposition party and it was necessary that he be immediately fired.
“The Norodom Ranariddh Party is the opposition. There is no way we would allow him to have a government position,” he said.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that Ngor Pin had been removed following a request from Funcinpec. He added that nobody would fill the now-vacant position ahead of the election because a replacement would have to be approved by the National Assembly, which has already closed its doors ahead of the July national election.
Ngor Pin confirmed that he had joined the NRP, but claimed that he had resigned from his ministry position Tuesday before the government had a chance to fire him.
“I asked to resign to stand as a lawmaker candidate for the Norodom Ranariddh Party,” he said, adding that he joined the NRP because the government had failed to tackle illegal immigration.
Ngor Pin was joined in defecting from Funcinpec to the NRP by Ministry of Social Affairs Undersecretary of State Pheng Heng, who said he will be standing as an NRP candidate for Kompong Speu province.
“I am not afraid of losing my position. People are losing their land,” he said, adding that he has not yet been removed from his post.
He added that there has been a standing agreement that Funcinpec officials who defect to the CPP will not lose their positions within the government.
Cheam Yeap denied that this was the case, adding that the only reason Funcinpec defectors to the CPP were not fired from their posts was that the royalist party never sought their removal.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, second deputy president of Funcinpec, confirmed that the party had not asked that party officials defecting to the CPP be removed because it was close to the election.
“We don’t want to cause a problem with the CPP because we have good cooperation. We have forgotten about it,” he said.