Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Political loyalties shift for jobs or ideals

Political loyalties shift for jobs or ideals

Political loyalties shift for jobs or ideals

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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.

T

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

"choo-choo" noises.

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

election.

"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

Correspondents Club.

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

stake.

"It's been said before that 'I didn't leave my party; my party left me',"

she said.

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.

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