KNUP Future in Doubt as Bun Chhay Jailed, Deputy Defects

A personal adviser to embattled KNUP president Nhek Bun Chhay, who has been charged in connection with a 10-year-old drug case, said on Monday that the future of the party was in doubt after the charges and the defection of its vice president to the ruling party.

Mr. Bun Chhay, a former general during the time the royalist Funcinpec party shared power with the CPP in the 1990s, was charged on Sunday with being an accomplice to drug production and importing substances to produce drugs in the 2007 case.

cam photo nhek bun chhay supplied
Nhek Bun Chhay announces the launch of his new party during a press conference in Phnom Penh at his home on February 2016. (Vong Sopheap)

Mao Phanna, a personal adviser to Mr. Bun Chhay, said on Monday that the case against the Khmer National United Party leader, who funded the KNUP out of his pocket, left the party’s future unclear.

“When there is no party president, there is no influence,” Mr. Phanna said. “It seems that it lacks financial support.”

The party had also been left without a leader as Khan Savoeun, who also served as a Funcinpec general in the 1990s and was made KNUP deputy president upon its formation last year, defected to the CPP last month.

As a result, the party’s annual congress, which had been planned for Saturday, would be indefinitely postponed, he added.

Mr. Bun Chhay and his party have been under fire since June when recordings were leaked of the KNUP leader allegedly pledging his support to the opposition CNRP.

He was sacked from a government adviser role shortly after, and members of his party were progressively pushed from their government jobs.

No drugs were found during the 2007 raid, but roughly 6 tons of chemicals were discovered that authorities said at the time were precursors used in the manufacture of methamphetamines.

In December 2007 and the following month, a total of 21 suspects were tried in court in what was then the country’s largest-ever narcotics case.

Ouk Vandeth, Mr. Bun Chhay’s lawyer, said on Monday that he would file a request to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his client’s release on bail.

“We will request an investigating judge release him on bail in a few days because, based on the law, he is sick and has his house,” he said. “He would not go anywhere.”

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