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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fresh defections hit HRP in run-up to May council elections

Fresh defections hit HRP in run-up to May council elections

Defectors claim they are better able to serve the people under the CPP’s umbrella, while HRP president Kem Sokha remains optimistic

SEVEN high-ranking Human Rights Party (HRP) officials have defected to the ruling Cambodian People's Party, claiming  they have a better chance to serve the people in government than they do in opposition.

Touch Nilkiry, one of those who defected Tuesday, said fighting the CPP was useless since the party's win at last year's national election, which showed it has the support of the people.

"I have joined the CPP to serve the people," he said. "I have been in opposition for nearly 20 years."

Political analysts say the defection could weaken the HRP's  recent alliance with the Sam Rainsy Party, saying both parties needed to work harder to prevent defections of senior leaders.

"To bar defection, the leaders of the parties must reform themselves," said Puthea Hang, executive director of election monitor NICFEC, adding the parties were being drained of valuable experience.

Meanwhile, Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha said national elections were far enough away that there was still enough time for the HRP to strengthen itself against further defections, but warned that departures in the run-up to election campaigns could be a propaganda boon for the ruling party.

No problem

But HRP President Kem Sokha told the Post the defections would not harm his party's popularity since the party's key leadership remained in place.

"While it gets newcomers, [the party] must also have defectors. CPP members have defected to the HRP and HRP have defected to the CPP," he said, but acknowledged that "if top leaders defect, we will have difficulties".

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that those who had defected did not seek positions, but departed because they are unhappy with the recent alliance between Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, which will see the two parties campaign under the banner of the Democratic Movement for Change in future polls.

"They defected because the HRP shook hands with Sam Rainsy," he said Tuesday.

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