SRP Covers Tracks After Last-Minute Defection

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday announced the last-minute defection of an SRP lawmaker candidate to his ruling CPP, a move that he suspected could cause the opposition problems when submitting its candidate list.

Within hours, however, the SRP had found a new candidate for Ourng Kosal, its third candidate for Battambang province, and still submitted its list before the National Election Committee’s 5 pm deadline Monday.

“I would like to apologize to those who are concerned,” Hun Sen said, speaking at a library inauguration ceremony in Phnom Penh.

“As far as I am concerned, the [SRP’s] third lawmaker candidate and board of directors member has left. This morning [the SRP] must fix the [candidate] list,” he said.

The prime minister also reiterated his promise that all who defect to the CPP before and after the election would be welcome, save convicts and suspected criminals.

Ourng Kosal wanted to defect after the SRP submitted its list to the NEC on Monday to provoke registration problems, Hun Sen said, but he had personally asked Ourng Kosal to defect Sunday to prevent such an issue.

Ourng Kosal could not be reached for comment.

SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang confirmed the defection but added that he had quickly found a new candidate.

SRP President Sam Rainsy said that any attempts to disrupt the party’s candidate list submission were “laughable.”

“There is not a problem. We have reserves and measures. We have strategies. There is no problem,” Sam Rainsy said.

For now, Ourng Kosal will serve as a government adviser, said CPP National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel, adding that after the election, Ourng Kosal and other defectors will be considered for government positions.

“We will consider giving positions after the elections because we have sent the [CPP candidate] list to the National Election Committee already,” he said.

“This is political rights. This is not vote-buying,” he added.

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