Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

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Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) chairman of the board Yang Saing Koma speaks at a press conference in July. Hong Menea

Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election.

Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear, deputy secretary-general and spokesman of the party, announced their defection in a letter dated November 23 but made public on November 27.

The letter stated that in light of the recently announced policies of Prime Minister Hun Sen on agriculture, including policies to improve farmers’ livelihoods with practical measures such as reduced prices on seeds, policies to reduce production costs, increased capital for the Agricultural and Rural Development Bank and moves to address issues with agricultural markets.

“I am confident that the introduction of these new realistic policies will bring real benefit to the people as a whole. These policies are in agreement with my previous knowledge, skills and work experience in agriculture,” the letter states.

The letter goes on to state their intention to join the CPP and participate in the successful implementation of these policies in order to improve the lives of farmers, improve food security and help the environment and national economy.

In addition to requesting to join the CPP, Koma and Sothear also wrote separate letters to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting to work for the government in the area of agricultural development, particularly rice.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told The Post on November 27 that the CPP has never had a policy of obstructing the political rights of any citizens and is always open to those who agree with the party’s policies and ideals because they correct and beneficial for the nation and the people.

“I understand that through this letter their entry is essentially automatic because the procedures for accepting new members from any source is not complicated,” he said.

For applying for a job with professional qualifications, he said that the CPP uses people according to their skills and that if they have agricultural skills then they will try to find them positions based on those technical skills.

“But I would like to inform everyone that ... if you come, you cannot expect to be granted any job you decide you want and those looking for political appointments must understand that the CPP does not accept any coercions or any preconditions from those who apply,” he said.

Eysan said that the reason why other parties’ members continue to apply to join the CPP is because the government of Cambodia, led by the CPP, puts the interests of the people and the nation as a whole first.

“There are only two points. The first point is that cold water brings more fish. Second, the Cambodian People’s Party is like a deity in the symbolic sense and it has no enemies anywhere. Everywhere you go you’ll find friends of the gods,” he said.

Em Sovannara, a professor of political science at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that leaving one political party to join another is usually done because that individual person sees an opportunity for advancement or the possibility of getting an official position.

“The ruling party is influential and attractive, so they can provide a lot of benefits, and so they can use those benefits to help them do their own thing. But even if they join the CPP, there is no guarantee they will be able to achieve or fulfil their wills successfully because the CPP has been ruling for a long time in the agricultural sector and there are still many gaps, so it is not certain that they will be able to change or develop the approaches of the ruling party,” he said.

He added that if it was an act of surrender, it was no different from the senior officials of the Khmer Will Party who went to join the Candlelight Party.

“As in the case of the Khmer Will Party officials who joined the Candlelight Party, if he was in the Khmer Will Party he would not have as much status, but if he came to join the Candlelight Party, he would have the opportunity to stand as a member of parliament,” he said.

However, he said that whether the exit of each party official to another party weakens the party they abandoned or not depends on how strong the actual support is for that party and its policies.

The GDP officials’ request to switch party allegiances came after the government provided an additional $10 million to an $83 million rice buying fund through the Rural Development and Agriculture Bank to support rice mills and rice processing companies to buy rice from farmers at reasonable prices and prevent farmers from selling rice at low prices to traders making low offers.