SRP founding member Lon Phon said Tuesday that he had defected to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
Lon Phon, who is also a member of the SRP board of directors, said that he submitted his resignation Monday after speaking with Hun Sen on the telephone.
“Today, I have joined the CPP. I am disappointed with the [SRP]. Prime Minister Hun Sen has welcomed me to join with the party and develop the country,” he said.
Lon Phon said that a major reason for his defection was the re-election last year of Eng Chhay Eang as SRP secretary-general.
He added that the CPP has not given him a new position.
“Even though I am without a position, I am happy to leave,” Lon Phon added.
Former SRP lawmaker Ngor Sovann, who defected last week to the CPP, claimed Tuesday that out of 30 SRP officials in Svay Rieng province, 17 have defected to the CPP and nine have resigned from politics altogether. In addition, six SRP officials in Kompong Thom province have defected to the CPP, according to copies of their resignation letters obtained Monday.
Eng Chhay Eang said on FM 105 Beehive radio Tuesday that the defections are of no consequence to the party.
“People always say bad things after they leave a party. If the party was bad, they should have left as soon as they joined, but they stayed for several years,” Eng Chhay Eang said of his former colleagues.
“I did not ask for the position. People elected me,” Eng Chhay Eang said of his becoming SRP secretary-general, and added that criticism of him was due to his strength as a politician.
SRP President Sam Rainsy also said the defections won’t hurt the party and that “people have condemned the defectors as betraying their conscience.”
“This is the CPP’s last trick, to spend several thousand dollars” to buy SRP members, he said. “We are not surprised.”
Eng Chhay Eang was rightfully elected to the position he currently holds, Sam Rainsy added. “They have used Eng Chhay Eang as a scapegoat,” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith confirmed that the CPP had accepted Lon Phon into its fold.
SRP members now realize they will never form a coalition government with the CPP and that’s why they have defected, Khieu Kanharith added.
“Sam Rainsy should not be surprised that a few people at the top have left for the CPP. Several thousand at the grassroots level have also left for the CPP,” he said.
Khieu Kanharith said that no positions were promised to those who left the SRP, but they will be given what they deserve.
“They should not lose their benefits,” he said. “The CPP has not promised any positions, and the defectors also have not asked for any.”