Sam Rainsy Party activists are pushing to replace their current Pailin candidate, an American-Cambodian, with a local member for the National Assembly seat the party won in last month’s election.
With preliminary results showing victory for the Sam Rainsy Party in the former Khmer Rouge zone, the first candidate on the party list, Sun Kim Hun, stands to become Pailin’s representative.
But some party members both in Pailin and the capital are anxious to replace a man who is seen as an outsider compared with local activist Hut Try, who could garner more support in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold.
“We in Pailin only know Sam Rainsy’s party well through [Hut Try],” Dul Saroeurn, a gasoline vendor in Pailin, said last month. “We don’t like the people from outside representing this area because when they have the position in Phnom Penh as MP we may be ignored.”
Sun Kim Hun left Cambodia for California in 1982 and only recently returned. He went to Pailin to campaign just two months before the poll, a senior party official said. Although he has the necessary qualities to become an MP, Sun Kim Hun is perhaps not the best choice for a remote former rebel base, said the official, who asked not to be named as the situation was “sensitive.”
“He doesn’t know very much about the living conditions of the people there,” the official said in an interview last week. “It’s difficult for our party to send a representative who doesn’t know anything about that area and it is difficult for him to work there.”
Pailin resident Hut Try is favored by the local party but he is the second reserve candidate.
The man ahead of Hut Try on the list, Chak Chan, said he would be happy to see the Pailin activist take the seat, to ensure the Sam Rainsy Party represents the municipality well.
“If he gets the position, Pailin people over there will not be disappointed with the party,” Chak Chan said at Sam Rainsy’s house last week. He credited the local activist with having orchestrated a poll-winning campaign.
But Sun Kim Hun said Thursday he should take the seat, as he is the candidate topping the list and therefore the person accepted by the NEC to represent the party in Pailin. “It is up to the party president to decide,” he said. “But according to the principle of law, I am the first candidate.”
Hut Try expressed a desire to be a candidate only several weeks before the poll, by which time it was too late to make him the main candidate, the official said. But if Sun Kim Hun stood aside, the Pailin native could take over as official candidate, he added.