The Sam Rainsy Party expelled one if its founding members on Monday for allegedly being a spy for the ruling CPP and for calling opposition leader Sam Rainsy a “dictator.”
The opposition party steering committee voted late Monday to expel Kann Virak, a member of the Sam Rainsy Party Steering Committee, as well as the head of the Pursat provincial council, because he was working for the CPP, Sam Rainsy said on Tuesday.
“We followed [Kann Virak] and discovered that he is working for the CPP,” Sam Rainsy said. “We also received information from our CPP agents that [Kann Virak] was working for the CPP.”
Although Sam Rainsy did not provide direct evidence linking Kann Virak to the CPP, he said the results of the 1998 national elections and the 2002 commune elections proved he worked for the ruling party.
“The Sam Rainsy Party had a very poor showing in Pursat during both elections, and our investigations at the commune and village level in Pursat showed that Sam Rainsy Party activists were told not to do anything,” Sam Rainsy said. “The provincial chief must be held responsible.”
Sam Rainsy said opposition members are very vulnerable to bribes from the CPP because the opposition party has very few monetary resources, adding that he could tell when opposition party members are bought off by the ruling party because “all of a sudden, they have a brand new land cruiser and wear gold necklaces.”
Kann Virak, however, disputed Sam Rainsy’s accusations.
“I am not a CPP spy and I never took bribes from the CPP,” Kann Virak said on Wednesday.
Defending himself against the accusations, Kann Virak gave a litany of offenses allegedly committed by Sam Rainsy. He blasted Sam Rainsy for never consulting his party’s steering committee on key decisions and for creating a coalition with former CPP-official Prince Norodom Chakrapong.
Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information and the spokesman for the CPP, laughed off suggestions that Kann Virak worked for the CPP.
“[Kann Virak] does not work for the CPP,” Khieu Kanharith said. “We have more than one million members—why would we need a spy in the Sam Rainsy Party?”
According to Sam Rainsy Party Cabinet Chief Phi Thach, the steering committee also voted to oust Kann Virak from the party because he called Sam Rainsy a “dictator” during an interview with Radio Free Asia aired in early September.
“He did not observe the obligation of self-restraint,” Phi Thach said. When asked if Kann Virak was punished for practicing freedom of speech, Phi Thach said, “We do not deny freedom of speech—if you have a problem with Sam Rainsy, you can bring it up with the steering committee or with Sam Rainsy, then find a solution.”
Kann Virak freely admitted that he called Sam Rainsy a “dictator,” and during a telephone interview on Wednesday again accused Sam Rainsy of practicing nepotism and cronyism.
Twenty nine of the 37 steering committee members voted to expel Kann Virak on Monday and only one voted not to oust him, Phi Thach said. Another four voted in absentia and four votes were “null,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party Senator Ou Bunlong will replace Kann Virak, Sam Rainsy said.