Prominent Adhoc staffer and vocal government critic Chhay Thy officially resigned from the rights group yesterday, days after confirming that he had applied to represent the ruling party in the upcoming commune elections.
Earlier this week, it emerged that the group’s longtime Ratanakkiri coordinator had applied to run as a commune chief candidate for the Cambodian People’s Party in the province’s Pate commune.
The surprise announcement, which came with four of Thy’s Adhoc colleagues in jail on charges widely decried as politically motivated, was met on Tuesday with calls by the group for an explanation. They got it face to face yesterday.
Thy met with two senior Adhoc staffers – Latt Ky and Sam Chankea – who asked him to confirm if he was joining the CPP and to inform him he could not pursue both options at the same time as it was against the NGO’s policy.
Thy said he informed the two, who had travelled to the province from Phnom Penh, that he had already planned to resign. He then provided them with a letter of resignation.
“My experiences with Adhoc have pushed and encouraged me to be willing to engage in politics,” the letter reads.
“So, I ask to resign from the coordinator position in Ratanakkiri to compete for the position of commune chief from the CPP quota.”
On Monday, Thy said about 90 commune councillors had cast ballots in a secret vote to select the next commune chief candidate, but that the results had yet to be announced. The vote was part of the CPP’s nationwide directive to conduct primary-like elections to pick party candidates.
Thy goes into the elections a popular figure given his extensive work with the Jarai ethnic minority community.
“I hope the Jarai community will vote for me even though the CNRP has won the last two mandates,” he said.
Following the meeting with Thy, Chankea, who is the group’s spokesman, said the now-former staffer had no option but to quit if he wanted to purse political ambitions.
He now has the rest of the month to hand over projects he was working on, he added.
“We do not want him to resign from Adhoc, because he is a good and brave person,” Chankea said. “We want him to continue but we have no right to stop him.”
Asked on Monday why he chose the CPP, Thy had said the presence of a strong CNRP candidate in the commune had led him to consider joining the ruling party.
Roman Yuot, the sitting commune chief, said he was faced with a barrage of queries from villagers over Thy’s decision to leave his work at Adhoc, where he has long worked on land disputes, illegal logging issues and ethnic minority rights.
“I said I do not know either,” Yuot said. “Anyway, the results of the election will depend on what the people want.”
Jarai villager Sal Lap, 37, said he was disappointed to hear of Thy’s resignation.
“We are so sorry to hear that, because he helped us when we have a land dispute problem and he solved it. I don’t want him to stop,” he said.