T HE Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) has virtually split in two - with
rival premises and leaders - as a festering internal rift finally
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
BLDP president Son Sann has squared off against vice-president
Ieng Mouly, the high profile Minister of Information, in a fight for control of
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
The meeting decided that "all resolutions of the past, of the
present and of the future" made by Son Sann would be disregarded.
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
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
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
Chhoeurn said Mouly was suspected of having done a deal with the
election-winning Funcinpec party to be appointed as Information
"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.
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
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.
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.
"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