Sam Rainsy Loses 6th Lawmaker to Royalists

Continuing the flight of parliamentarians from the Sam Rainsy Party, opposition lawmaker Sith Ybrahim said Monday he was join­ing Funcinpec. His defection, the sixth in recent weeks, drops the number of parliamentarians to nine from an original 15.

Sith Ybrahim, the party’s parliamentarian for Phnom Penh, said he would hold a news conference at Funcinpec headquarters on Wednesday to officially announce his defection.

The defection also coincides with the surprise resignation of well-known Sam Rainsy Party Cabinet Chief Phi Thach.

“The reason I leave the Sam Rainsy Party is because I found out that this party is not the cool place it once was,” said Sith Ybra­him, using the metaphor of fish and cool rivers to explain his decision to defect.

“The Sam Rainsy Party, after the party conference, is like the hot water. The fish cannot stay in hot water so the fish congregate in cool water,” said Sith Ybrahim, charging Sam Rainsy of running his party dictatorially.

“Every decision by Sam Rainsy reflects his dictatorship,” said Sith Ybrahim, who did not provide further details.

Former Cabinet Chief Phi Thach confirmed Monday he had resigned from the party, but had not yet made any decision on his future.

“I feel very difficult to express my views on this,” said Phi Thach, adding that he had not joined politics simply for a job, but to serve Cambodian people.

Phi Thach said he felt that his goal had become increasingly difficult in his role with the opposition.

“I can’t reach my main goal, to help the country effectively,” he said.

Asked if he would join Funcin­pec, Phi Thach said, “I have not yet that intention.” Phi Thach said he still held the opposition party in high regard.

Though a regular contributor of party news and political opinion to the media, the opposition party has remained largely silent on the loss of its lawmakers and other members ahead of the July 27 general election. The party re­cently claimed those who left did so in retaliation for being passed over for choice spots on the election candidate lists.

The Sam Rainsy Party has so far attracted three royalist lawmakers and several secretaries of state and high-ranking party ad­visers over to the opposition.

Keo Remy, a recent royalist con­vert to the opposition, said Mon­day the loss of the latest parliamentarian was a result of “mis-communication” inside the party.

“The top leadership is busy working for the party so they do not have much time to listen and understand their colleagues,” he said.

Despite the difficulties, “[The Sam Rainsy Party] is better than the party I left,” Keo Remy said.

Likely adding to both the opposition and royalist party’s defection woes, the ruling CPP on Mon­day held a ceremony in Banteay Meanchey province to welcome some 100 grass-roots Funcinpec members over to the CPP.

According to sources in the prov­ince, the defectors were given “small presents.”

CPP officials could not be contacted for comment. Funcinpec officials said they would investigate the reports.

On Sunday, Hun Sen blasted officials who he accused of offering donations to poor families in exchange for votes.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle)

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