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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Provincial chiefs under threat; Rainsy on block

Provincial chiefs under threat; Rainsy on block

F UNCINPEC is moving to have Sam Rainsy expelled from the National Assembly, and

also considering sacking some of the party's provincial governors, in an

apparent crack-down on internal dissent.

Funcinpec's leadership are said

to have last week sent a letter to National Assembly chairman Chea Sim seeking

Rainsy's removal.

Meanwhile, the party has confirmed a "review" of

Funcinpec governorships around Cambodia.

Party leader Prince Norodom

Ranariddh discussed the issues at a meeting of Funcinpec MPs and officials last

Friday.

Ly Thuch, the head of Ranariddh's Funcinpec Cabinet, said on May

2 he could make no comment because he had just returned from

overseas.

Interior Minister and Funcinpec steering committee member You

Hockry, asked about the bid to remove Rainsy, said: "I have no comment, no

comment."

About Funcinpec governorships, he said: "We are looking forward

to examining certain cases related to some officials.

"In the provinces,

the people who are good workers, good officials, we will leave."

But

there were others who "do not fit in the positions" and "we are considering the

removal of some, or...a changing of posts".

He would not say how changes

might be made, or how long the review would take, but recommendations would be

made to party president Prince Norodom Sirivudh.

Sirivudh, in France,

could not be contacted for comment.

Among those governors rumored to be

least secure in their positions are Kompong Som's Thoam Bun Sron and Siem Reap's

Tuon Chay.

In February Bun Sron spoke out against the effective

domination of the Cambodian People's Party over his province and most other

Funcinpec-led ones.

Complaining that he couldn't "even get a letter

signed" without CPP approval, he said provincial officials were still under the

patronage of their former CPP masters.

Bun Sron said this week that

rumors had been around for months, but he did not know an official review was

underway.

Asked if he was worried about his position, he said: "No. If

they change [governors], they change. That's it - I can't do

anything."

He said no-one had warned him he might be removed. "If it

happens, it will be no surprise, but I don't know of anything

planned".

Tuon Chay's only comment was that he did not know of the review

or of suggestions his position might be in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Rainsy -

a former finance minister and the most vocal critic of government policies among

MPs - said he was aware of a Funcinpec letter to Chea Sim seeking his

expulsion.

He said Funcinpec had cited his recent statement that he was

forming a new "political alliance" to say that he was no longer a Funcinpec

member, and should not be an MP.

Rainsy, who stressed he wanted an

opposition political alliance and not a new party, said he would fight the

prospect of being ousted from the National Assembly.

Late this week he

sent letters to King Norodom Sihanouk, Chea Sim, the United Nations

Secretary-General, and the governments of France and Indonesia, who co-chaired

of the 1991 Paris peace conference which led to Cambodia's first

elections.

In the letters, he said, he sought "private interventions" in

support of his legal right to remain an MP.

He said UNTAC's election law

was specific: MPs could only be changed if they died, resigned, or were mentally

or physically unfit for the job.

"I think people will be shocked. I think

they will realize that this is an illegal step that the government is

taking.

"It's not Sam Rainsy. It's the principle. If you can expel one,

you can expel 120 [MPs]."

He said he had no intention, "as of today", of

leaving Funcinpec and considered his loyalty to the party lay in his commitment

to its election promises it had broken.

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