Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, right, welcomes former Funcinpec minister Mu Sochua to the fold a day after 60 Sam Rainsy Party members defected in the other direction.
he Funcinpec Party is confident that Prime Minister Hun Sen will create new government
jobs to absorb defectors from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in a "new strategy"
aimed at weakening the opposition party.
Norodom Ranariddh, president of Funcinpec, welcomed a group of about 60 defectors
from various levels of the SRP into the royalist party on August 24, saying 90 percent
would find positions, many as secretaries or under-secretaries.
"If I find you have the ability then I will request extra positions [and]...
Hun Sen agrees with me to create new positions if the request comes from me,"
said Ranariddh during an animated two-hour speech at party headquarters.
He offered any defectors from SRP's steering committee the same post within Funcinpec
and said 30 percent of village chief positions would be filled by Funcinpec members
in the future.
Spokespersons for the Cambodian People's Party could not be contacted to confirm
if new positions will be created in a government executive that many consider already
too big, with 331 members.
Ranariddh said Sam Rainsy was destined to be "opposition for life" and
urged potential SRP defectors to change sides soon because "the train is not
waiting for you" before demonstrating an accelerating train with a series of
Pi Thach, former SRP cabinet chief, was the highest-ranked defector, but it was Srun
Vong Vannak, a former Sam Rainsy bodyguard and head of security, who received special
attention from Ranariddh.
Vannak spent a year in jail after being convicted of murdering Hun Sen's brother-in-law
Kov Samuth, becoming a rallying figure for Amnesty International before being granted
a royal pardon in September 1998.
"If you stay within the SRP you cannot control the prison, instead you are in
the prison," joked Ranariddh to Vannak as he named him an under-secretary of
state in the Ministry of Interior, a position overseeing the running of jails.
Sam Rainsy criticized the attempt to "lure" members of his party, saying
those who defect will be joining a party with little hope of success in the 2008
"I would only like to quote what Prince Ranariddh said [before the 2003 election,
that]...if Funcinpec joins the CPP to form another coalition government as they did
in 1993 and 1998 it would be difficult to get more than two seats [in parliament],"
Rainsy told the Post.
Rainsy described the defections from his party as "a drop in the ocean"
and said they were proud to welcome high-profile former minister Mu Sochua, who officially
announced her switch to the SRP on August 25.
"I had to choose between my own self interest, serving another term as minister,
able to win small reforms but not allowed to criticize broader failures, or to put
Cambodia first," said an emotional Sochua at a press conference at the Foreign
Sochua, former Minister for Women's and Veterans Affairs, has said she was offered
the post again but turned it down because she feared Cambodia's democracy was at
"It's been said before that 'I didn't leave my party; my party left me',"
Sochua was elected on to the SRP steering committee and is expected take charge of
the social affairs portfolio after another internal vote within a few weeks.