A round of merger negotiations between the opposition SRP and HRP parties appeared moribund yesterday following the leak of a recorded telephone conversation in which a voice identified as that of Prime Minister Hun Sen is heard advising the HRP to poach members from the SRP’s ranks in 2007.
SRP attempts to form various alliances have been largely unsuccessful, and four months of talks with the HRP foundered last month amid accusations of bad faith and lack of partnership.
The SRP said yesterday that the disclosed recordings were the last straw.
“It is off now,” said party spokesman Yim Sovann. “After the voice recording between the prime minister and Mr Kem Sokha, it is very clear to the SRP that the HRP has no political will to merge.”
Published on Sunday by the pro-CPP Deum Ampil News, the 10-minute recording from July 25, 2007, between Mr Hun Sen and HRP President Kem Sokha is studded with vague admonitions from the prime minister, including one to “be careful with internal problems.”
The recording, in which the two men discuss Mr Sokha’s nascent Human Rights Party has raised multiple theories as to its provenance. The Sam Rainsy Party is mentioned multiple times, and at one point, the prime minister advises Mr Sokha to build his party with SRP members.
“Now, I think, Kha, you don’t have enough people. I think it’s better that you grab these people. Grab the people in the province, provincial councilors of Sam Rainsy. Some of them are good people who are capable and convincible,” a voice identified as that of the premier can be heard to say.
In response, Mr Sokha says only “yes,” before changing the subject.
The conversation came just a year and a half after Mr Sokha was charged by the premier with defamation and detained for several weeks. He was released on bail Jan 17, 2006, and the charges were dropped later that month following a letter of apology.
Mr Sokha yesterday confirmed the authenticity of the recording but called the release a CPP ploy meant to ignite tensions between opposition parties and confusion among voters.
He strongly denied that there had been any connection between the HRP and CPP, adding that the purpose of the call to Hun Sen had been to request the use of Olympic Stadium to host a conference.
“The CPP issued this in order to support the SRP’s accusation that I am a CPP puppet,” he said.
Mr Sovann of the SRP he believed the recording demonstrated that the HRP was created by the ruling party to ruin the SRP.
“I read every sentence of that conversation—they’re very happy to be disturbing the SRP,” he said, theorizing that the release came from a secretly pro-SRP government official.
Representatives of the prime minister could not be reached for comment yesterday. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he had heard of the recording but had no information on it.
Soy Sopheap, DAP Media Center General Director, said yesterday that he had obtained the recording from a high-ranking official close to the prime minister, but declined to identify the source.