Renewing party rivalry with Funcinpec, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Tuesday that thousands of low-level Funcinpec members have decided to defect to his party.
“Thousands of people throughout the country” have “expressed their desire and decision to join the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said by telephone, a day after his return to Cambodia from a visit to the US and Europe.
Those intending to switch to the opposition are “mostly from the grass-roots level because those people…feel disgusted by how some Funcinpec leaders behave,” he said. He added that he would not be surprised if “higher profile” members joined his party.
Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Serey Kosal, however, said he had no information of any such mass defection.
“I haven’t heard about this,” Serey Kosal said. But he noted last month’s defection of former Sam Rainsy Party senator Ou Bunlong to the royalist party, saying “more from Sam Rainsy are joining Funcinpec.”
Though Mu Sochua, former minister of Women’s and Veterans Affairs and a prominent Funcinpec official, reportedly visited the US last week with Sam Rainsy and his wife, parliamentarian Tioulong Saumura, opposition and royalist officials said Tuesday they did not know whether Mu Sochua would switch parties.
“I haven’t seen the official notice or approach yet,” said opposition spokesman Ung Bun-Ang. But, he added: “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
He said Mu Sochua is expected to make a decision by the middle of this month.
Repeated calls to Mu Sochua went unanswered Tuesday.
Though the Sam Rainsy Party has not discussed whether to offer Mu Sochua a leadership position, Ung Bun-Ang said she is expected to make a decision by the middle of this month whether to join the opposition.