Three CPP senators were fired from the party December 6 and expelled from the Senate
December 12, apparently for breaching party discipline.
They are Cambodian-Americans Chhang Song and Siphan Phay, and Cambodian-Australian
The Post understands the sackings came as a surprise to the Hun Sen faction of the
CPP, which implied it was at the instigation of Chea Sim. Khieu Kanharith, of the
Ministry of Information, was apparently unaware of the move when contacted immediately
after the men lost their positions.
An informed source told the Post that the sackings had long been on the cards.
"Siphan was kicked out for opposing the party on the floor of the Senate. He
worked at 85 [a reference to the CPP's headquarters] all the time," the source
said. "They were warned many times - everything is debated at 85. Once a position
is decided you cannot take [further debate] out on the street."
"There was no support inside the party to keep these guys in," he continued.
"The straw that broke the camel's back was Sar Kheng. It was his law [the penal
law] that was the last issue, not the first. Enough was enough."
Although none of the three said they had received an explanation, they suspected
it was down to their objections to the penal law, already approved by the National
Assembly. The three also held positions on the Senate's foreign affairs commission
and education commission.
The men raised concerns that the new code violated the separation of power between
the executive, judiciary and legislature. They wanted clarification on the relationship
between military police, police and court officials, and they were uncomfortable
with extending the detention period for suspects from 48 hours to 72.
They said they had worked to raise overseas support for the party and create democracy
within it, and had spoken out publicly for human rights and against corruption and
land grabbing. Other party members, they said, generally kept quiet.
"I took an oath in front of the King to work for the benefit of the people and
the nation, and I did," said Siphan. "I am concerned that civilians will
become hostage to the military police, police or court officials once this bill gives
them more power."
"I don't like to see corruption or powerful government officials taking land
from villagers," said Savath in his first comments to a journalist in ten years.
"I raised these issues at the Senate and in party meetings."
Song added that confusing the roles of the three estates was the way to a dictatorship,
"so this is not democracy".
"I speak for the truth and for what is really happening in our society,"
said Song. "We cannot close our eyes when we approve an important bill. We have
to talk to find out what is right and wrong, because there was confusion written
in the law."
Siphan said he now feared for his safety and would leave Cambodia. In the past some
expelled members had been assassinated, but he said the danger might come from any
of the political parties.
The CPP's honorary president, former prime minister Heng Samrin, told the Post the
men had been disloyal. "They created a problem and were doing wrong by the party,"
he said. "I cannot explain why, but they abused the internal regulations and
political platform of the party. Those that do not follow the guidelines of the party
have to be kicked out."
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith agreed they had not respected party discipline.
"If the party decides on something, individuals have no right to talk."
The three replacements are: Som Sopha, central committee member of CPP and former
leader of Stung Treng province before 1993; Um Sarith, first deputy governor of Stung
Treng province; and Lak On, central committee member of the CPP and former official
in Ratanakiri before 1993.