Two different narratives emerged yesterday about a telephone call between opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang and former Military Commander Nhek Bun Chhay, who was recently fired as a government adviser amid rumours he had made overtures about merging his minor party into the opposition.
According to interviews with both men by news outlet Voice of America, the telephone conversation took place on June 3. Yet Bun Chhay said the call was an accident and that he had thought he was speaking to someone with a similar name to Chhay Eang from his own Khmer National United Party.
Chhay Eang said that Bun Chhay had called him to offer to tell his supporters to vote for the Cambodia National Rescue Party wherever the KNUP did not field candidates at the June 4 commune elections.
“I was not interested, if he has supporters [in those communes] he would field a candidate,” said Chhay Eang, who could not be reached for further comment.
Bun Chhay, who also could not be reached, strenuously denied ever making such an overture.
He said that on June 3 he had received a call from Y Kim Eng, the head of the KNUP working group in Kampong Thom province’s Baray district, who wanted advice about what to do in several communes where the party had no candidates. He said he told him he was busy and would call back later.
Later unable to reach the official, Bun Chhay said that he was then given a new number for Kim Eng, which in fact turned out to be Eng Chhay Eang’s phone number. “I called him and said ‘Eng’, and [he] replied back that he is Eng,” said Chhay, who added he never suggested anyone vote for the CNRP.
“I did not use the words Cambodia National Rescue Party in the phrase – I said that in the places that we have no candidates, vote for [anyone] and [told] Eng: ‘Do not tell any people’” what party to vote for.
Bun Chhay, who was stripped of his government adviser job on the day of the June 4 commune elections, also denied reports that his house in Phnom Penh had been surrounded by armed authorities.
He said that the trucks that arrived at his home had come to take back his bodyguards, as they were soldiers from the military’s Brigade 70 and were withdrawn after he lost his government position.