Nat’l Assembly Rejects Khan Savoeun’s Bid

In a major blow to Funcinpec, the National Assembly on Thurs­day turned back RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Khan Sav­oeun’s bid to replace Funcinpec co-Minister of Interior You Hock­ry, giving Khan Sav­oeun just over half the votes he needed to take the position.

In a secret ballot, 45 of the 106 lawmakers present voted for Khan Savoeun. He needed two-thirds of the full 122-member assembly, or 82 votes, to carry the vote. Eight members of parliament voted against the former royalist resistance commander, and 49 abstained. Four marked their ballots “Void.”

The abstentions were thought to be CPP members, since CPP official Heng Samrin, first vice president of the Assem­bly, declared recently that the ruling party would “remain neutral” on the issue.

With this loss, the already-fractured Funcinpec faces worsening divisions. Funcinpec members said Thursday that Khan Sav­oeun’s failed bid boded ill for the party and could cause supporters to leave the royalist party. If successful, Khan Savoeun’s appointment was supposed to be the solution to protracted infighting within Funcinpec.

The conflict first became public in late February, when 1,000 former Funcinpec resistance fighters from all over the country—led by Khan Savoeun—sent a petition to party Secretary Gen­eral Prince Norodom Sirivudh asking for You Hockry’s removal.

The former fighters accused You Hockry of nepotism and corruption but offered no specific proof. Some saw their demand as a test of party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s strength, resolve, and loyalty to his party’s base.

Over the next several months, Prince Ranariddh approved the request and met with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who also gave his approval.

But that was apparently not enough. Hun Sen, present at the legislative session, gave a speech before the vote urging lawmakers to vote. He credited national reconciliation between the CPP and Funcinpec for Cambodia’s continuing stability and socioeconomic progress.

After the vote, Hun Sen said, “This vote reflected democracy in parliament—each lawmaker has a right to make his own decision.”

Asked if he had pushed for Khan Savoeun’s appointment, the premier said, “Because it had support, this reached the Assem­bly today.”

After the vote, Khan Savoeun, looking dazed, told reporters, “I am not disappointed at all. This is democracy. If they like [me], they will vote; if not, they won’t. We can’t force them to vote,” he said.

Asked if he will try for the post again, Khan Savoeun said, “It’s up to the [party] president if he wants to resubmit my candidacy to the Assembly.”

Asked if he would remain loyal to the party, he refused to reply.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy took advantage of Khan Sav­oeun’s defeat to call on Funcinpec members to join his party instead.

“I appeal to all resistance members, especially those in Funcin­pec, to join forces with the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. “Those who are with Prince Ranariddh have no future. Funcinpec under Prince Ranariddh is a puppet of the CPP and Hun Sen.”

The opposition party also suffered a setback Thursday, as its nomination of lawmaker Cheam Hoeurn to the Assem­bly’s Hum­an Rights Commission was defeated, 56-37 with nine abstentions and four voided ballots.

Cheam Hoeurn was nominated to replace Yim Sokha, an opposition parliamentarian who died in a car accident in January. In a news release, the Sam Rainsy Party blamed the CPP for “making shameful maneuvers to seize absolute power.”

You Hockry looked happy at the result, which will allow him to keep his position. “I feel relieved because half a year of problems are behind us now,” he said. “We have to think ahead…. We have to unify for the sake of the party.”

Prince Ranariddh said he would discuss with Khan Sav­oeun whether to resubmit the nomination. He said he would also take up the issue with party officials.

“I am sorry about the result,” he said. “But even though it was a secret vote, I hope all Funcinpec [lawmakers] voted for him.”


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