Ahmad Yahya, SRP lawmaker for Kompong Cham province and prominent member of the Cham Muslim community, said Feb 1 that he had defected to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP—the latest defection ahead of the July 2008 national election.
Interviewed by telephone on Feb 1, Ahmad Yahya said that he submitted a letter of resignation to the SRP on Thursday and will now take up a position as a government advisor.
Previously a Funcinpec secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works until he defected to the SRP three months ahead of the 2003 national elections, Ahmad Yahya expressed doubts about the SRP’s chances in the upcoming poll
“I want to help the nation under the leadership of Hun Sen. If we wait for Sam Rainsy to win the election, how long will we wait for?” he asked.
Holding an advisor’s position would afford him the opportunity to help Muslims from inside the government, he said, adding that he would not be running as a CPP lawmaker.
SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang confirmed by telephone Ahmad Yahya’s resignation.
“I was not surprised to hear about his resignation. He will join the CPP for the upcoming election,” Eng Chhay Eang said. “It is his freedom to choose any party he likes,” he said.
Nuon Vuthy, a member of the SRP’s provincial council will replace Ahmad Yahya as an election candidate, he added.
CPP Lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that he did not know of any promises made to Ahmad Yahya regarding a future position. But he welcomed Ahmad Yahya to the CPP.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said defections are a common problem for Cambodian political parties and are normally based on self-interest.
“For a politician, wherever they can go, they will go for their own sake,” he said. Still, Koul Panha said defections usually have little impact on a party, because Cambodian voters choose a party not an individual candidate.
Ahmad Yahya said his decision was not based on self-interest.
“I [will] have an opportunity to work for Muslim brothers and sisters in the rural area,” he said of his new position.
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)