OVER a hundred members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party defected to the ruling party in Meanchey district over the weekend, government officials said Sunday.
Kuoch Chamroeun, Meanchey district governor, said 128 SRP members – including 21 personal bodyguards of the party’s president, Sam Rainsy – gave up their party memberships Saturday and joined the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“They were interested in joining the CPP for three reasons: They are fed up with the SRP’s politics, they see that Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s leadership is good, and they see that the SRP’s criticisms are not fair,” Kuoch Chamroeun said.
“Their defection does not come with any preconditions from us, but we will think about it in future.”
Senior CPP parliamentarian Cheam Yeap said the party was “proud” that the SRP members joined the party, but that they were not motivated by personal gain. “The CPP is proud that other parties’ members have seen that their parties lack a clear platform and defected to the CPP. We do not think they just want government positions,” he said.
“We hope that there will be more defections from other districts and provinces after we have received them.”
But SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that reports of a mass defection in Meanchey district were exaggerated, accusing the CPP of trying to sow discord while party president Sam Rainsy is away in Europe.
Reports from party members, he said, indicated that only “a few” members had defected.
“It is a ruling party trick, while Sam Rainsy is not in the country, to try and split the SRP,” he said.
Yim Sovann also denied that bodyguards had been among the party’s defectors, saying the SRP employed only six men as bodyguards, and that they were all still working as of Sunday.
Before the 2008 national election, CPP officials said that as many as 160,000 opposition members defected, which was disputed at the time by opposition politicians.