The recent transfer of a military official from Pailin to Battambang was “completely political” because of his support for the Sam Rainsy Party, opposition party officials are claiming.
Military officials acknowledge army Lieutenant Bun Chanto’s political activities led to his transfer earlier this month, but say he was not moved because he joined the Sam Rainsy Party.
Rather, he was transferred because he was campaigning while he should have been working for the army, said Bun Seng, commander for Military Region 5.
“He’s preoccupied with other things outside of the army, doing politics,” Bun Seng said. “Being military personnel, he can’t join political activity in public, but Chanto works in public for the political campaign.”
Bun Chanto joined the Sam Rainsy Party as a member of the party’s municipal council in 1998. That was the same year party candidate Sun Kim Hun won the only parliamentary seat from the former Khmer Rouge stronghold.
Sam Rainsy Party officials believe the CPP started to worry about the opposition—which has little presence in the military—gaining strength in Pailin, and say that Bun Chanto was threatened by CPP officials on several occasions.
On Aug 24, a powerful CPP official, Yim Seth, who is also a deputy commander of Pailin’s Division 22, hinted in a party meeting that Bun Chanto should be removed from Pailin. On Sept 6, Bun Chanto was transferred by the regional military commander to the headquarters of Military Region 5 in Battambang.
“This transfer is political because the authority officials fear the opposition party will prosper in the army,” said Pich Dalith, chief of the Sam Rainsy Party’s Pailin office.
He said the transfer was illegal because it had not been proposed by Bun Chanto or by his superior officer.
Bun Seng, who signed the transfer, said Bun Chanto’s superiors in Pailin did propose the transfer. Bun Chanto is trying to resign from the army, opposition party officials say.