Opposition members yesterday accused the ruling party of playing “old tricks” after an anonymous Facebook user posted photos of CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang gambling at a casino and alleged – without evidence – that several top party members were having extramarital affairs.
The information first reported yesterday by government-aligned news outlet Fresh News – was posted on a Facebook account created on January 22 and named “Seiha”, which is the Khmer word for August. The user claims to have once been a member of the Human Rights Party who later joined the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The user took direct aim at Chhay Eang – who in March publicly revealed he was being blackmailed – posting photos of him at gambling tables allegedly at Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld casino in November and December.
“Eng Chhay Eang is a lawmaker, who is close to Sam Rainsy, goes to all casinos and is addicted to gambling without paying attention to [National] Assembly’s meetings or caring to solve the problems of people in his constituent area,” a post along with the pictures reads.
The post goes onto allege that Chhay Eang had “sold his conscience” to get money for gambling, alleging that he accepted bribes from commune election hopefuls to further his addiction.
Chhay Eang has publicly acknowledged his gambling addiction and quit the Sam Rainsy Party in 2005, only to return into the fold two years later after saying he had dumped gambling for politics.
In March, Chhay Eang claimed that the agitator behind the “The Truth of CNRP” Facebook page – which released salacious audio recordings of Kem Sokha with an alleged mistress – had blackmailed him and threatened to expose unspecified wrongdoings.
Seiha, the Facebook user, also accused Chhay Eang and four of his CNRP colleagues, including spokesman Yim Sovann, of having extramarital affairs, calling their acts “dirty and immoral”.
Reached yesterday, Chhay Eang refused to comment on the veracity of the photos and other allegations, leaving it to the Cambodian electorate to judge him.
“It just comes because the election is approaching. I will let the public assess it. It is nothing new that we have to make a comment,” he said, before refusing to answer further queries.
Several party lawmakers also refused to comment on the allegations yesterday. However, two CNRP lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Chhay Eang’s gambling issues were public knowledge and that this was just an attempt to malign the party ahead of the elections.
“It’s a very old trick, the same old thing I think it comes from the top [of the ruling party]. Everybody is a target and they’ll try one after the other to see if they can get a public reaction, but the public is immune,” said one of the lawmakers.
Spokesmen for the Interior Ministry and National Police, and Anti-Corruption Unit head Om Yentieng – who spearheaded the investigation into Sokha’s scandal – could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan said that while Cambodian law did not allow locals to gamble, it would be left to the public to judge Chhay Eang, adding that the party did not want to be criticised for using legal action against the opposition.
Ou Virak, head of the Future Forum think tank, said Chhay Eang’s gambling was against the law, but that the government had been lax in preventing Cambodians from indulging in the activity.
However, it would raise doubts over his ability to manage party finances, given that “it was a more tangible issue to the public than party officials having affairs”.
“Also, the CPP could show the public that all politicians are the same and bundle everyone [on both sides] together, and then you have two devils instead of one,” he said.