Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lashed out at an unidentified couple in the opposition party that he claimed had accused him of paying lawmaker Van Sam Oeun to defect to the ruling party.
The premier and Cambodian People’s Party acting president said that on the contrary, he had urged Sam Oeun, who defected last week, to stay with the rival Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Nonetheless, he said the CPP would accept any and all defections from its political rival.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute for Education in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said the CNRP duo had to respect the “political freedom” of individuals. “But the couple alleged that I bought [him]. That Excellency Van Sam Oeun’s head was sold. I do not have much money to buy [him with], and why would I just buy one person?”
He added that he had urged Sam Oeun to consider the more than $2,000 he receives monthly as a lawmaker in comparison to the small salary he would earn as a government official in a meeting last week.
“[But] he said that he does not regret [losing] the $2,000. He can have a way to live,” he said. “I have asked him to continue to stay with [the CNRP], and if older brother has any idea [to help develop the nation], brother can write to me.”
However, Sam Oeun, who could not be reached for comment, allegedly told the premier that he was sick of not being able to share his ideas within the opposition.
“I did not need him to say. I know the [internal] issues [in the CNRP],” Hun Sen said, taking yet another public dig at alleged rifts within the party.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said yesterday Sam Oeun’s defection was a “personal issue” and that he had not heard anyone in the party claiming Hun Sen had paid him to defect.
Outside of party president Sam Rainsy and wife, Tioulong Saumura, opposition lawmakers Yim Sovann and Keo Sovannaroth are the most prominent lawmaker couple in the CNRP, but Sovann denied yesterday that either of them had made any such allegations.
Sovann denied that either of them had made such claims, but added cryptically that people understand “in their hearts” why Sam Oeun defected.
Reached yesterday, Rainsy said his party was well rid of Sam Oeun.
“For the CNRP, it’s a blessing in disguise, because defectors and opportunists are generally not the best elements in our party, which can only get stronger in the cleaning process.”
Sam Oeun is being replaced in the National Assembly by Dang Chamroeun, who was ranked fourth on the CNRP’s candidate list in Kampot province at the 2013 election but did not win a seat. Sam Oeun was ranked third.
The Post reported earlier this week that Sam Oeun was being appointed vice chairman of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development. CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday that he had heard this “unofficially” but had yet to see the official paperwork.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH