One day before the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) held its meeting in Phnom
Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen was upbeat about the party retaining him as its prime
ministerial candidate for the coming election.
In a speech that was broadcast on radio and television, Hun Sen denied speculation
that party members would vote to reshuffle the leadership, remove officials, or ditch
its coalition agreement with Funcinpec.
He said some diplomats and observers had expressed concerns that major changes could
take place at the assembly.
"Nothing substantial will be changed because [we] have done things right. Please
don't worry," Hun Sen said on April 23. "The football team, if it wins
[the election] will continue to play with Chea Sim as trainer, Heng Samrin as goalkeeper
and Hun Sen as the striker."
Some 700 top officials from across the country will meet at the extraordinary session
on April 24 and 25 at the Apsara TV station. They will discuss the party's work over
the past five years and set a new strategy to take the party through the next five
There was much speculation in the press in recent months that Hun Sen might lose
his position as prime minister. Repeated delays of the meeting added fuel to such
However a source on the Central Committee told the Post on April 24 that the 23-strong
Permanent Committee had voted unanimously prior to the meeting to appoint Hun Sen
as the party's prime ministerial candidate. The Post was unable to confirm that by
Other participants for the two-day meeting include the senior hierarchy, members
of the standing committee, senators, legislators, provincial governors and officials,
and commune chiefs.
Hun Sen said reforms would continue in the armed forces, civil administration, the
judiciary, finance and the economy. He stressed that the coalition with the royalists
would be maintained after the election - provided the CPP received enough votes -
because it helped to strengthen the nation's peace and security.
CPP chairman Chea Sim used his opening speech at the congress on April 24 to outline
the topics of debate. Members would evaluate the CPP's current situation and determine
its objectives over the next five years; determine the political platform to restore
and develop Cambodia; and decide on the work required ahead of July's general election.
Chea Sim added that the commune elections held last year showed the Cambodian people
need the CPP to play its role at both the national level and at the grassroots.
A senior party member, who did not want to be named, said the CPP had tried over
the past five years to feed the people, and also improve agriculture, education,
health care, the rule of law, and reform the armed forces.
He said the party was still working on the same issues that it had promised to tackle
in its 1998 political platform, adding that its new mandate was to increase equality
and speed development to improve living conditions. Boosting agricultural productivity
would be the priority to attain that goal.
Another CPP official expected that the party's work in improving the prospects of
the poor would reap votes. While the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec had
been watching their senior members defect this way and that, he said, the CPP had
used its time to work with the grassroots, which would benefit the ruling party at