Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Monday that Thach Keth, publisher of SRP-affiliated newspaper Sralanh Khmer and an SRP board member, had defected to the CPP.
The prime minister’s announcement came on the heels of claims by Sralanh Khmer’s editor-in-chief that the paper was forced to halt publication Friday after its printing house received an order to do so by a man claiming to be an Information Ministry official.
Both the printing house and the Information Ministry denied the claim.
“Thach Keth talked with me over the telephone because he is a CPP member,” Hun Sen said during a school inauguration in Prey Veng province.
“I encouraged him not to worry about the past because in the past [Sralanh Khmer] used to curse Hun Sen,” he added.
Thach Keth confirmed by telephone that he had crossed party lines and accused the SRP of being undemocratic.
“The SRP does not respect the democratic policy. There is a split [within the party], and I am disappointed with the SRP,” he said, adding that the Sralanh Khmer would continue publication, but with a pro-CPP slant.
“The newspaper will support the CPP,” Thach Keth said.
Sralanh Khmer Editor-in-Chief Boay Roeuy said that due to Thach Keth’s defection, he will be submitting his resignation to the paper today.
“I will resign from the newspaper and stay with the SRP,” Boay Roeuy said.
SRP President Sam Rainsy downplayed the defection and the loss of a news outlet to the CPP.
“No one read the newspaper,” he said, adding that Sralanh Khmer has a circulation of only 2,000.
“It’s not important—we have the radio program [Voice of Candlelight] and it has more potential,” he said.
Political observer Chea Vannath said that it was unlikely that the defection and the loss of the newspaper would have much affect on the SRP in July’s national elections.
“Unless the party itself is actually splitting—then it will have an effect,” she said.