The heads of two SRP-affiliated unions warned Thursday that they would not support the opposition party in the 2008 national election if lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang remains in his recently reacquired position of SRP secretary-general.
Free Trade Union President Chea Mony and Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun both said that Eng Chhay Eang, who was voted back into the position he resigned from in 2005 during last weekend’s party congress, was not fit to do the job.
“I do not support Eng Chhay Eang because he has a bad habit-he is addicted to gambling,” Chea Mony said.
Rong Chhun concurred, saying: “If a party leader gambles, I do not support it.”
Eng Chhay Eang stepped down as SRP secretary-general in December 2005 citing health issues and a “small” gambling habit that he feared political opponents would use to discredit the party.
The SRP issued a statement Thursday supporting Eng Chhay Eang’s appointment, stating that he was voted into the position through a democratic and transparent process.
“[O]ur party wants to stress that his gambling habit belongs to the past,” the statement said. “Eng Chhay Eang has amended himself and put an end to his wrongdoing.”
Eng Chhay Eang also issued a statement Thursday expressing his commitment to his reclaimed post.
“If I commit misconduct or do things, such as gambling, that would affect the party’s reputation and dignity, I will resign unconditionally,” he wrote.
Eng Chhay Eang said by telephone from Bangkok Thursday that if the party believed he still had a gambling problem, it would not have elected him.
“If I was a gambler, they would not have voted for me,” he said.
SRP Deputy Secretary-General Mu Sochua said the SRP had taken heed of Chea Mony and Rong Chhun’s warnings, but added that Eng Chhay Eang will retain his elected position.
“We take their concerns seriously, [but] there was an election and we cannot go back,” she said.
SRP President Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment.