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Funcinpec defection

An outspoken member of the Funcinpec party’s central committee has announced plans to defect to the Norodom Ranariddh Party after lodging multiple corruption allegations against Funcinpec secretary general Nhek Bun Chhay.

Phan Chantha, who formerly served as a Funcinpec lawmaker, said today that he had “no confidence” in the royalist party’s current leadership.

“How can I work with these kinds of people?” he said.

“I am poor, but my ideals are not poor and are not corrupted.”

Phan Chantha alleged last month that Nhek Bun Chhay had improperly mortgaged Funcinpec headquarters in Phnom Penh and had later sold the property for US$3.85 million without consulting the rest of the party’s leadership.

“Acting like this is not suitable for a party leader. I am not afraid of being fired from the party and I dare to be responsible before the law,” Phan Chantha said at the time.

Ranariddh was himself ousted from Funcinpec in 2006 in connection with allegations that he embezzled funds from the sale of the party’s headquarters.

He announced his comeback to politics in December of last year after having retired in 2008.

Nhek Bun Chhay, who is also a deputy prime minister, said today that Phan Chantha’s defection was a “good thing” for Funcinpec because the fiery central committee member was no longer committed to the party’s platform.

“It’s good that he’s defecting because he has been living with Funcinpec but serving the Norodom Ranariddh Party,” Nhek Bun Chhay said.

Nhek Bun Chhay said last week that he was planning to file a lawsuit against Phan Chantha and two other members of the Funcinpec central committee, accusing them of fabricating contract documents that suggest he was paid to use his political influence on behalf of a Chinese telecoms company.

The deputy prime minister said today that he no longer held such plans, but added that he would follow through with the lawsuit if the trio continue to “defame” him.

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