Funcinpec’s Khlaing Huot, the flamboyant governor of Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, on Monday would neither confirm nor deny reports that he had formally defected to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
On Sunday, Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay identified Khlaing Huot as one of two royalist officials who had jumped ship amid a period of party infighting.
“I am currently working hard under the recommendation of Prime Minister Hun Sen. This is my right as a citizen,” Khlaing Huot said by telephone.
Funcinpec’s protracted collapse continued on Monday with news that Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who was accused by Nhiek Bun Chhay on Sunday of appointing unqualified people to government positions, had resigned as chairman of the party’s working group for Kandal province.
In his resignation letter, Prince Sirivudh called on Prince Ranariddh to return to Cambodia soon. Prince Ranariddh left for France in early March, and has been absent during the CPP’s systematic removal of a host of senior and middle-ranking Funcinpec officials.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith reiterated Monday that unqualified CPP officials would also be removed from their positions, and denied that CPP members would replace all 43 Funcinpec deputy governors earmarked for removal after the Khmer New Year. Funcinpec will be allowed to replace some of the positions, he said.
Nhiek Bun Chhay announced on Sunday that the 43 deputy provincial governors from his party were leaving their positions for training.
Calling the 43 unqualified and unschooled, he said they will attend a six-month course in administration and organization at the Royal School of Administration, after which they will return to civil service jobs.
The party secretary-general has also formed his own committee to recruit new Funcinpec officials to work in government and replace the 43 slated for training, said party senior minister Serei Kosal. Branding the new committee “very bad,” he said the committee was recruiting officials in the same manner as its criticized predecessor had done.
Members of the committee led by Nhiek Bun Chhay include You Hockry, Veng Sereyvuth, Chhim Seak Leng and Hong Sun Huot.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that Prince Ranariddh’s absence was fueling the party’s implosion.
“There is no leadership. There is no compromise to reduce the dispute,” he said.