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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New Sec-Gen a SRP party crap shoot

New Sec-Gen a SRP party crap shoot

New Sec-Gen a SRP party crap shoot

The re-election and return after two years of Eng Chhay Eang as secretary general

of the Sam Rainsy Party is creating a rift with party supporters who say a former

gambling addict does not lend the right image to the party leadership.

Officials of two trade unions - the Free Trade Union of Workers of Kingdom of Cambodia

(FTUWKC) and Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) -a said the return

of Eng Chhay Eang will hurt the party's popularity just as it gears up for the July

2008 national elections.

Eang was re-elected at the party congress held on September 8 and 9 at SRP headquarters

in Phnom Penh.

He previously resigned from the position of secretary general in December 2005 saying

he had health issues and a gambling addiction.

Eang responded to critics in a September 13 statement in which he said he would resign

again if his background causes discredit to the party.

"I will work from my heart, my braveness and all my resources that I have for

the party," Eang said.

For the last two years since he resigned Eang has continued as a National Assembly

member from SRP.

Party President Sam Rainsy had no public comment about Eang, other than to say he

was democratically elected. Party members said Eang remains close to the Sam Rainsy

family.

Ong Thong Hoeung, president of the SRP in Belgium and a representative of the SRP

to the European Union , resigned after the party congress. But Mu Sochua, deputy

secretary general of the SRP, said there was no clear explanation as to why he resigned

and denied it was because of Eang.

Following the party congress, Chea Mony, president of the FTUWKC, told the Post that

the people working for the party are an important part of what voters will think

about the party.

"We don't like a person addicted to gambling because this kind of human resource

will bring more corruption to the nation when they get into power to run government,"

Mony said.

He noted several issues that are important including government land grabs, social

security and abuse of garment workers.

"We in civil society are closely watching all the political parties and we support

a good politician who can resolve problems for us," Mony said.

He said if a new democratic party came to the forefront he would encourage the garment

workers to vote for it.

Rong Chhun, President of CITA told the Post on September 17 that although the unions

have no influence they are concerned about a negative impact to the SRP of having

Eang back in a leadership position.

"If the leader is not able to maintain confidence then there will be an impact

to the party," Chhun said.

Mony and Chhun both said the SRP should realize they need more voter support.

The national elections are scheduled for July 26, 2008.

In the national elections in 2003, CPP won 73 seats, Funcinpec won 26 and SRP won

24.

Rainsy said that the SRP now has had 500,000 members nationally.

"Our congress was a model of democracy. Our senior officials got into position

through an election from the village level," Rainsy said.

Rainsy said that all party officials were democratically elected including the 100

member steering committee. No votes were announced because the election was done

by a show of hands.

Khieu Kanharith, spokesman of the CPP, said that the SRP is always proclaiming itself

to be democratic, but its own votes are not announced.

"There were many conflicts inside SRP, but we are not criticizing," Kanharith

said.

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