Opposition candidate Sam Rainsy says he has won the support of a former CPP Interior Ministry secretary of state, and claims more CPP officials soon will join him.
The letter of support came on Monday from Sin Sen, who most recently was an adviser on CPP internal affairs until being removed from the post in April. Sin Sen is best known for being convicted of involvement in an alleged coup d’etat plot in 1994 when he was a top Interior Ministry official. He was granted a royal pardon in August.
“I expect many other CPP officials to support the Sam Rainsy Party,” Sam Rainsy said Tuesday evening. “I can tell you that Sin Sen is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Sam Rainsy said Sin Sen is being offered a possible position as minister of interior should Sam Rainsy control a coalition government after the July 26 elections.
Political observers said Tuesday that it’s too early to tell whether such endorsements will make a difference at the polls.
CPP insiders said Tuesday that Sam Rainsy would fail to lure CPP officials and civil servants away from the party led by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Chea Sim.
“It’s too late, it’s not possible for Rainsy to do that [win significant support],” a central committee member said.
An analyst said Tuesday that Sam Rainsy is embarking on a bold campaign.
“If he’s able to show that former CPP people are joining him, then he can probably take some benefits from that,” the analyst said. “It may show division in the [CPP] party.”
As in the past, Sam Rainsy claims that is exactly what’s happening: The CPP is splitting as officials grow increasingly disgruntled with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
CPP insiders scoffed at that notion Tuesday.
The strategy could pose safety risks for Sam Rainsy, some believe, if the CPP begins to feel threatened. Sam Rainsy himself acknowledged on Tuesday that the strategy could be dangerous both for him and for those who switch party allegiances.
The endorsement game is played out at election time in democratic countries all over the world. But in Cambodia, where political violence is an issue and democracy is in its infancy, the switching of party allegiances is potentially more explosive.
Sam Rainsy said he received the letter of support from Sin Sen after discussing his possible role in the post-election government. A translation of the Khmer-language letter states Sin Sen fully supports Sam Rainsy’s effort to “lift up the flag of democracy.” It ends by encouraging all voters to cast votes for Sam Rainsy.
Sin Sen couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday. A bodyguard at his residence in Phnom Penh said he was out of town.
An adviser to CPP President Chea Sim on Tuesday called the letter a fake, saying it didn’t reflect Sin Sen’s tone, signature or preference to write in French.
Regardless of its authenticity, a member of the CPP’s central committee called the endorsement insignificant. “It’s not a very important letter,” he said.
The CPP central committee member added the CPP is solid within its ranks, and that even ordinary CPP bureaucrats are unlikely to switch support to Sam Rainsy’s camp.
A political observer said Sin Sen may still have some influence among policemen and teachers, but that it’s too early to assess the significance of Sam Rainsy’s larger strategy. “I do not think [Sin Sen’s switch] has a huge influence among the voters. Maybe it has influence among intellectuals and students in Phnom Penh.”