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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - BLDP one, and BLDP two

BLDP one, and BLDP two

T HE Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) has virtually split in two - with

rival premises and leaders - as a festering internal rift finally

erupts.

The dispute appears unlikely to be settled until a full meeting

of the party's congress can be called to allow members to debate the

issue.

BLDP president Son Sann has squared off against vice-president

Ieng Mouly, the high profile Minister of Information, in a fight for control of

the party.

On May 13, Sann held a meeting of BLDP's "executive committee"

which voted to expel Mouly from the party.

The decision was formally

announced - after Sann had left for an extended trip to France - at a press

conference on May 22 by Sann's son, Son Soubert.

By that time, Mouly had

called a meeting of 14 members of BLDP's Board of Directors on May 18 to discuss

the "internal nagging plague inflicted by" Son Sann and his

associates.

The meeting decided that "all resolutions of the past, of the

present and of the future" made by Son Sann would be disregarded.

Later,

on May 28, another meeting of the Board of Directors - attended, says Mouly, by

16 of its 30 members - unanimously resolved that the move to expel Mouly was

illegal.

It voted to establish a "provisional Executive Bureau" to run

BLDP until a party congress was held.

The meeting appointed MP Son Chhay

as BLDP's Secretary General and Ministry of Information spokesman Sieng Lapresse

as Deputy Secretary General.

It also decided to "temporarily transfer"

the party's headquarters to another address.

Meanwhile, Son Soubert, at

his May 22 press conference, maintained there was only one official BLDP office

- at Son Sann's house.

He said his father had promoted him from

Secretary-General to be the party's Vice-President, replacing Mouly, and BLDP

official Keat Sukun was the new Secretary-General.

Sann and Mouly's

differences date back to the UNTAC period, when Sann unsuccessfully tried to

have Mouly removed from the Supreme National Council and as an election

candidate.

Sann had sought BLDP's withdrawal from the elections, which

Mouly opposed, after the Khmer Rouge had done so.

The divisions widened

last December when Sann and Mouly differed over the number of BLDP members who

should be given jobs in the government.

Mouly's list of people was

accepted by the Council of Ministers, leading to allegations he had gone over

Sann's head to strike a deal with the government.

BLDP cabinet chief Koy

Chhoeurn, an ally of Sann's, told the Post on May 20 that Mouly had prepared his

list "without the consent" of the party president or a committee set up on the

issue.

Chhoeurn said Mouly was suspected of having done a deal with the

election-winning Funcinpec party to be appointed as Information

Minister.

"It is reported that he has been secretly involved with

Funcinpec since the election and it is enough to believe [this]....because the

seat of Ministry of Information was Funcinpec's," he said.

Son Soubert,

at his May 22 press conference, said the bid to expel Mouly came after he failed

to appear before officials to answer allegations of breaching party policy and

doing secret deals.

He said Mouly's dismissal was based on his position

as both the Minister of Information and an MP, which he said violated BLDP's

rules on the separation of legislative and executive branches of

government.

Mouly said the so-called "executive committee" which ousted

him - made of Son Sann, Son Soubert, Kiet Sokun, Meas Chan Leap and Koy Chhoeurn

- did not exist under BLDP rules.

He said he had not appeared before the

committee, which had met while he was out of Phnom Penh, to answer their

allegations because it was an illegal tribunal.

He had "no intention to

work for another political party" and intended to "continue my political

activities according to the principles of BLDP."

Asked whether he would

lead an attempt to oust Son Sann as party president, he said the BLDP's congress

would have to vote on who should hold the position.

Meanwhile, Son

Soubert said the question of whether Mouly should lose his seat as an MP because

of his expulsion from BLDP by Son Sann had not been considered.

However,

"normally we would have to inform [National Assembly president Chea Sim] that

Mouly has been removed from BLDP".

Legal observers in Phnom Penh are

awaiting with interest to see how Chea Sim might respond to that - in light of

moves to expel Funcinpec dissident MP Sam Rainsy from Parliament because his

party's leader says he is no longer in Funcinpec.

According to observers,

government leaders who might favor Rainsy's expulsion as an MP are unlikely to

have the same view on Mouly, who they have better relations with. But treating

the two men differently would lead to embarrassing calls of hypocrisy, observers

say.

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