Nhek Bun Chhay was unanimously elected as executive president of the royalist Funcinpec Party by 3,000 members in Phnom Penh over the weekend, claiming a centrist mantle as well as 200 defectors from the Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parties.
The deputy prime minister, formerly secretary general of the party, said at the Funcinpec congress on Saturday that 100 members of the SRP and 100 from the NRP had joined Funcinpec – allegedly drawn by its “reform agenda”– and said he had a list of names to prove it.
Responding to criticism that his party is under the control of the ruling party, Nhek Bun Chhay said his party was merely seeking to cooperate with the Cambodian People’s Party.
“Funcinpec has cooperated with the CPP since a long time ago as part of King Father [Norodom Sihanouk’s] political platform. So I still cooperate with the CPP for political stability,” Nhek Bun Chhay said.
Pen Sangha, Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman, said Nhek Bun Chhay’s claim about defections was a charade.
“I have checked with the grassroots already, and no member of the NRP has defected. On the contrary, only Funcinpec members have defected to the NRP,” Pen Sangha said.
“If [Nhek Bun Chhay] has the name list, please show us which province [the defectors are from],” he said yesterday.
Ke Sovannarath, secretary general of the SRP, declined to comment yesterday.
Former Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reaksmey was elected chairman.
He said he would have fewer responsibilities but would be tasked with holding the new executive president accountable.
Keo Puth Reaksmey said Funcinpec lacks the influence to oppose the CPP and defended his party’s cozy stance to the regime.
“We cannot do what we want. We have few votes,” he said.
Nhek Bun Chhay faces recent allegations that he improperly sold the Funcinpec party headquarters and, separately, accepted money from a Chinese telecommunications company asking that he “bring into full play” his influence in Funcinpec and as deputy prime minister to secure a licence for operations in the Kingdom.
Nhek Bun Chhay has dismissed the accusations, brought by former Funcinpec members who defected to the NRP.