Embattled political leader Nhek Bun Chhay has chosen a new acting head for his Khmer National United Party, picking close confidant Soeung Kiry on Saturday following an internal meeting.
Run Meatra, KNUP spokesman, said on Sunday that Mr. Kiry was previously chief of the party’s Banteay Meanchey province branch and had fought in the army with Mr. Bun Chhay, a former RCAF commander, in the 1980s.
“The party will move forward,” Mr. Meatra said. “For the national election, we will choose a few provinces in the northwest to field candidates.”
Mr. Kiry said Mr. Bun Chhay had handed the position over before he went to prison but they made the move official on Sunday.
On August 3, Mr. Bun Chhay was arrested in connection to a 10-year-old drug case and is currently in provisional detention in Phnom Penh’s PJ prison. Mr. Bun Chhay, a former general during the late 1990s when the royalist Funcinpec party shared power with the CPP, was charged on August 8 with being an accomplice to drug production and importing substances to produce drugs in a 2007 case revived this month.
The beleaguered leader and his party have been under fire since June, when leaked phone recordings allegedly featured Mr. Bun Chhay pledging his support to the opposition CNRP.
Twelve party members have been removed from their positions within the government since the leak. Khan Savoeun, vice president of the KNUP, defected to the CPP late last month, and Mr. Meatra said no one had yet been chosen to replace him. Mr. Bun Chhay released an apology to Prime Minister Hun Sen last week, but Mao Phanna, a former adviser to Mr. Bun Chhay, said the future of the party was in doubt without Mr. Bun Chhay.
Mr. Kiry on Sunday defended the party’s future, however.
A party congress in the coming months will elect a new president and vice president, he said.
“We have to continue our work,” he said.