Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rats seen jumping off sinking Funcinpec ship

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

CPP, SRP: Funcinpec Members Want To Defect

By Yun Samean and Whitney Kvasagek

CPP and Sam Rainsy Party officials claimed on Monday that both high- and low-ranking Funcinpec members have approached their parties in the hope of jumping ship.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith declined on Monday to say who or how many Funcinpec officials had approached the CPP about the possibility of defecting, but said that those who broached the issue held titles equal to his own.

"There are a number of Funcinpec officials who approached [the CPP]. I myself was approached," Khieu Kanharith said, adding that so far, none of the Funcinpec officials have been accepted.

SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang claimed that potential Funcinpec defectors have also contacted his party, but that they have been lower-level Funcinpec members aid supporters. Funcinpec officials and lawmakers reacted with resignation to the claims.

"Members who want to walk out, it is their right," said Prince Sisowafh Sirirath.

Funcinpec lawmaker Ly Thuch agreed, saying members were "free to make a move."

"I feel there is trouble for Funcinpec ahead," he said, adding that Nhiek Bun Chhay, the party's new secretary-general, was working to unite Funcinpec.

Funcinpec Rural Development Minister Lu Laysreng said the defections were few and that they would not harm the party.

"Right now it’s just a little thing. I don't think lots will leave," he said.

Lu Laysreng also took issue with Nhiek Bun Chhay, stating that instead of ingratiating himself with Prime Minister Hun Sen, he ought to be working to strengthen the party.

On Monday, Nhiek Bun Chhay made a surprise donation of 100 wheelchairs to the National Paralympic Committee, of which Hun Sen is president.

"The Funcinpec party is poor. It is inappropriate," Lu Laysreng said of the wheelchair donation.

Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment.

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