Political party leader Nhek Bun Chhay has inducted a slew of new members into his party who had defected from the floundering Cambodia National Love Party and the defunct Khmer Power Party.
Bun Chhay, who heads the royalist Khmer National United Party, has made multiple Facebook posts since August 1 showing him meeting groups of people from the two small parties and saying that they had joined his party. He said “leaders from the provinces, districts and communes” had joined the KNUP since early August.
The posts show Love Party members from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampong Chhnang, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Thom, Pursat, Oddar Meanchey, and Takeo provinces defecting to the KNUP, as well as people from the Khmer Power Party’s presence in Takeo.
Bun Chhay and KNUP spokesperson Run Meatra could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The Cambodia National Love Party was rocked by several high-profile resignations in late July, including from party president Chiv Cata, and other senior leaders, Siev Visoth, who is acting head of the party, said in early August that new leaders had been appointed and the party was moving forward.
It was not clear from Bun Chhay’s Facebook posts if the Love Party defectors were from factions that had left the party last month. While Visoth acknowledged that party members had joined KNUP, he did not say if they were active members and instead chose to downplay the development.
He added that provincial Love Party leaders photographed in the posts had not left the party.
“Those who left, we are not the first party they have left. If I count they have joined and left no less than 10 parties, they seek for their interests rather than real leadership,” he said.
He said it was “corrupt politics” for other parties to take advantage of the turmoil in his party.
“When the neighbor’s house is burning, they don’t help or give advice but ask the [people] to join them,” he said.
The defunct Khmer Power Party was run by Soun Serey Ratha who was convicted for inciting soldiers to disobey orders for comments he made about a border dispute with Laos in 2017. He later defected to the government and is working as an secretary of state at the Rural Development Ministry since July 2020.
The party leadership was handed over to Soung Sophorn who changed the party name to Khmer Win Party. Sophorn was also convicted of incitement for protesting the imprisonment of Rong Chhun in 2020.
Sophorn was released from prison last November and said he was still running the party. He claimed any defection would have been from people who were with the party when Serey Ratha was in charge.
“If they find the party that is good and right, there’s nothing wrong about that,” he said. “If they got money and were able to build a new home, they should do it. I am not upset about it.”
The story was updated at 12:19 p.m. on August 18 to correct Serey Ratha’s position at the ministry.