All KNUP Members Will Be Removed From Government: CPP Spokesman

Every KNUP member with a government job will be sacked in retribution for a telephone recording obtained by Prime Minister Hun Sen that allegedly shows party leader Nhek Bun Chhay colluding with the opposition CNRP, a ruling party spokesman said on Friday.

Twelve government advisers were stripped of their positions in a royal decree signed by the king on July 15, with many of them identified as allies of Mr. Bun Chhay. The former general lost his own government advisory role shortly after the June 4 commune elections.

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

On Thursday, government spokesman Phay Siphan would only say that the removals were an administrative matter, and that he did not know if the 12 officials were linked to the Khmer National United Party, or KNUP.

On Friday, however, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the sackings were part of a deliberate campaign to sever ties with Mr. Bun Chhay and his party.

“Any official from His Excellency Nhek Bun Chhay’s party who are in government and get paid a government salary must be removed,” Mr. Eysan said.

“Because he turns around to have a relationship with the opposition—that’s why the ruling party can’t maintain the relationship.”

Mr. Bun Chhay is a former general for Funcinpec, the chief rival against the ruling CPP during the 1990s.

In 1997, Mr. Bun Chhay was defeated in factional fighting that broke out between forces loyal to the two parties. In the following decade, amid Funcinpec’s decline, Mr. Bun Chhay sued Prince Norodom Ranariddh—who had been the party’s president and co-prime minister after the 1993 election—for allegedly pocketing money from the sale of Funcinpec headquarters.

Prince Ranariddh later returned to the party, but Mr. Bun Chhay broke off to form his own party early last year. In the most recent elections, Funcinpec failed to win a single commune.

“When partners in friendship aren’t honest with each other, we must end it. It’s not strange,” Mr. Eysan said.

“There’s clear evidence. Samdech Techo Hun Sen has clear evidence,” he added. “The recorded voice is proof that [Mr. Bun Chhay] told his officials to vote for the opposition.”

KNUP officials could not be reached for comment.

On June 4, his KNUP was the only minor party to win a commune chief seat, taking 52 percent of the vote in Thma Puok commune in Banteay Meanchey province.

Days later, Mr. Bun Chhay was sacked from the government, and it was said that there was a recording being circulated showing him placing a call to CNRP Vice President Eng Chhay Eang and offering his support for the main opposition party.

Mr. Chhay Eang said on Friday that Mr. Bun Chhay had in fact called.

Mr. Bun Chhay had told him that in any communes where the KNUP had no candidates, its members would vote CNRP, Mr. Chhay Eang said.

“I thanked him,” Mr. Chhay Eang said. But that was the extent of any association between the two parties, he added.

“Frankly speaking, there is no relationship with the CNRP.”

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