Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday denied that the CPP “bought” a CNRP lawmaker who defected to the ruling party last week, saying he in fact counseled the turncoat to stay in the opposition and work with him from there.
Speaking to about 1,700 graduating university students at Phnom Penh’s National Institute of Education, Mr. Hun Sen said that Van Sam Oeun, who was a CNRP lawmaker for Kampot province, insisted on changing parties.
“Last week, there was a member of parliament from the CNRP, His Excellency Van Sam Oeun, a lawmaker representing Kampot, who asked to resign from his party and as a member of parliament and to join the CPP,” he said.
“The party did not issue any statements but we received information regarding people in the CNRP gossiping, and I want to send a message back that what was said is that I bought other people…[but] humans are not goods.
“His Excellency Van Sam Oeun also does not consider himself to be goods,” the prime minister said.
Mr. Hun Sen said he had a meeting with the defector arranged by Serey Kosal, a former commander of the resistance against the Phnom Penh government in the 1980s and a senior Funcinpec official who later defected himself to the CPP.
“I said, ‘Brother, stay over there and you can write to me if you have any opinions regarding the development of the country, because the country belongs to all of us,” he said
“He said, ‘If I do that, it seems like I am not working at the best of my capacity,’ and so urged me to let him come and stay with [the CPP]. I said, ‘If that’s what you decide, let it be.’
“He did not say anything bad about his party,” Mr. Hun Sen continued. “So I also told brother Van Sam Oeun, ‘Brother, I want this: If you come to join the CPP, please do not attack your original party.’ This is what I said.
“And I sent an SMS to a CPP spokesman to not say much more besides respecting an individual’s freedom.”
Mr. Hun Sen then brushed aside the idea that it was possible, or beneficial, to pay CNRP lawmakers to defect.
“Why would the head of a human being be so cheap? And I do not have much money for buying,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “What would I be able to do by buying one person, when the CPP has countless people with PhDs?”
Mr. Sam Oeun defected to the CPP on Friday, writing in his resignation letter that he “does not have the opportunity to serve the nation according to my will and experiences” as one of the opposition party’s 55 lawmakers.
The CNRP on Monday sent a letter to the National Election Committee to replace Mr. Sam Oeun with Dang Chamroeun, a 39-year-old Kampot province local who was the opposition’s next-listed candidate in the last election.
Mr. Sam Oeun could not be reached for comment.