HUNDREDS of former opposition party members have defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Takeo provincial Governor Srey Ben said Sunday, a claim denied by opposition lawmakers.
Srey Ben said the CPP had held a ceremony on Sunday to inaugurate 447 new members who formerly belonged to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP).
“It is normal for the CPP to inaugurate new members into the party, and it is nothing to be surprised about,” Srey Ben said.
However, HRP president Kem Sokha dismissed the governor’s statements, saying that dubious reports of defections of opposition members were “nothing new”.
“It is nothing to be concerned about, because there is no report of our activists defecting to the CPP,” Kem Sokha said.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the SRP had contacted its members in Takeo and had received no reports of defections.
He also disputed statements by Hem Heng, the Cambodian ambassador to the United States, who told Radio Free Asia last week that between 400 and 500 Cambodian-American SRP members had defected to the CPP during the Khmer New Year holiday earlier this month.
“We have contacted our members in Takeo and in the US, and there are no members of the SRP who have defected to the CPP,” Yim Sovann said, accusing ruling party officials of “making up defections to satisfy their party leaders”.
“I think the CPP is finding it hard to attract villagers who have been affected by land grabbing, illegal logging, forced evictions and the loss of territory to Vietnam, so therefore they have to make up reports about defections in order to decrease the popularity of the SRP,” Yim Sovann said.
A press release issued Thursday by the North American chapter of the SRP called Hem Heng’s statements “political propaganda designed to fool people abroad and especially at home”.