Opposition Loses 2 Parliamentarians to F’pec

Cambodia’s political see-saw tilted unexpectedly once again on Monday with the announcement that two more Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians have de­fected to Funcinpec, the third de­fection from the party since last week, officials said.

Lim Sokhun, opposition parliamentarian for Kompong Cham province, and Hong Sok Heang, the Sam Rainsy Party representative for Takeo province, followed Kompong Cham parliamentarian Hor Sopheap, who began the de­fections by joining Funcinpec on Thursday.

The defections from the Sam Rainsy Party followed last week’s departure of three Funcinpec parliamentarians, two undersecretaries of state and two high-ranking party advisers from the royalist party to the opposition.

Funcinpec officials said Mon­day they had been forced into tit-for-tat defections by the actions of the Sam Rainsy Party. The opposition, in turn, attempted to downplay the political significance of losing three parliamentarians ahead of the July polls.

Lim Sokhun and Hong Sok Heang could not be contacted for comment on Monday.

Serey Kosal, Funcinpec senator and party deputy secretary- general, confirmed their defection on Mon­day and claimed that Sam Rainsy’s tactic of encouraging royalists to join his party had backfired.

“Two Sam Rainsy Party members of parliament joined us. This shows the disaster inside the Sam Rainsy Party,” Serey Kosal said.

“This game reflects strongly on the Sam Rainsy Party. We did not want to do this, but we want to stop him continuing his [attack on Funcinpec],” he said.

Serey Kosal reiterated his re­cent criticism that Sam Rainsy is not interested in defeating Hun Sen’s ruling CPP in the July 27 general election, only in weakening the royalist party.

“We cannot condone Sam Rainsy’s game to provide victory to the CPP,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary- General Eng Chhay Eang downplayed the departure of the three lawmakers on Monday, saying they had left for personal and not political reasons.

“Their leaving to the Funcinpec party is no surprise. They are looking for personal interest from the Funcinpec party. It does not affect our party at all,” Eng Chhay Eang said.

Eng Chhay Eang claimed the three were not active in the Sam Rainsy Party and had been ranked lower on the party’s election candidate list in favor of more active members.

The opposition announced on Sunday they had sacked Hong Sok Heang.

“They have grown used to their posts, but have not worked hard for their positions or the party,” Eng Chhay Eang said.

Funcinpec parliamentarian and Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said the three opposition lawmakers have been assigned “de­cision-making” posts in the royalist party.

However, Mu Sochua downplayed the inter-party political maneuvering, saying it is more important for Funcinpec to build up its party and prepare for the July election than become en­gaged in a battle for defectors with the Sam Rainsy Party.

“We are interested in building dem­ocracy. This game has to stop,” Mu Sochua said.

On Monday, 20 Funcinpec fe­male election candidates and 45 activists from across the country attended a training course in Phnom Penh on public speaking in preparation for the July polls.

Conducted by the US-funded National Democratic Institute, the training will hopefully encourage women to vote for the royalist party, said Khim Chamroeun, vice-general director of the Fun­cinpec Women’s Movement.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also touched on the issue of gender in a speech in Prey Veng province on Monday.

Hun Sen said that people who talked about gender issues in Cam­bodia were doing so only from hotels in Phnom Penh.

“They just say ‘gender’ only at hotels in Phnom Penh, it’s useless,” Hun Sen said in the speech broadcast on Apsara radio.

“He or she should come and build schools. Where does gender begin? The gender begins when boys and girls have the same opportunity and access to school,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle, Nhem Chea Bunly and Kuch Naren)

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