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Thy’s campaign on, gloves off

Chhay Thy, a former coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, holds a press conference at the Cambodian People’s Party offices in Ratanakkiri province yesterday. Photo supplied
Chhay Thy, a former coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, holds a press conference at the Cambodian People’s Party offices in Ratanakkiri province yesterday. Photo supplied

Thy’s campaign on, gloves off

Former Adhoc official Chhay Thy’s transformation from longtime government critic to commune chief candidate for the ruling party became official yesterday, and he wasted no time in outlining his new positions.

Dressed in a Cambodian People’s Party shirt, Thy held a press conference addressing his decision to run as the CPP’s commune chief candidate for Ratanakkiri’s Pate commune, slamming the opposition for a lack of policies and what he terms its leadership’s “bad behaviour”.

He also released a three-page statement praising Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling party for introducing reforms he said have maintained stability and addressed human rights issues – a seeming 180 from his frequent critique of the government’s handling of illegal logging and mining issues in the province.

“I strongly appreciate the reforms of the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, especially reforms on land disputes, human rights problems, engagement during elections and increasing land ownership,” the statement reads.

Thy added that he did not trust the CNRP, taking exception to its leadership’s involvement in “love affairs”, a thinly veiled reference to opposition leader Kem Sokha’s recent sex scandal, which has seen four of Thy’s Adhoc colleagues jailed for more than eight months now.

He stopped short of implicating the jailed quartet in any wrongdoing.

“Adhoc is the victim [in this case], but we did not accuse anyone. Adhoc just fulfilled its obligation, but there are still allegations against it,” he said on the phone yesterday.

Following the press conference, the CPP’s provincial facilitator Ly Thuch announced that Thy had been officially selected as the party’s candidate for Pate, much to the elation of the former human rights staffer.

“I am so happy the leaders and local members of the CPP have supported me and the locals also trust me to serve them,” he said, after the announcement.

Thy said last week that about 90 commune councillors had voted to select the next candidate for the June 4 commune elections, in a primary-like selection process mandated by the party’s central leadership.

While Thy resigned last Thursday and was given till the end of the month to hand over his projects with Adhoc, the group’s spokesman, Sam Chankea, said the former staffer’s statement yesterday could see that transition period end more quickly.

“Before, he just filed an application to join the party [CPP], but now he is working for the party and attacking another party. We cannot permit him to continue like this,” Chankea said.

He added that officials at Adhoc will meet today to ascertain if Thy’s service should be terminated immediately, given his overtly political statements.

The CNRP’s Yim Sovann yesterday offered no response to Thy’s criticisms, saying only it was not unusual for people to start picking sides a few months before elections.

With the CNRP currently holding Pate’s commune chief position, Sovann brushed aside Thy’s popularity among Ratanakkiri natives, saying it would not sway their decision.

“We don’t care what other people say about the CNRP,” the party spokesman said. “It is a matter of who gives the people respect, reforms and who is anti-corruption. So we don’t care.”

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