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Nationalist Party Leader Stripped of Gov’t Advisory Role

Nhek Bun Chhay, president of the Khmer National United Party (KNUP), gives an interview with VOA Khmer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 16, 2017. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

Nhek Bun Chhay told VOA Khmer last week that the allegations against him were untrue and a “misunderstanding”.

The head of a minor opposition party and former military commander has been stripped of his position as a government adviser after he reportedly discussed coordinating a tactical voting campaign with leaders of the country’s main opposition.

Nhek Bun Chhay, founder of the Khmer National United Party and a former chief negotiator with the Khmer Rouge, also had his government-funded bodyguards and weapons taken from him.

Bun Chhay reportedly called Eng Chhay Eang, deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and suggested he could encourage KNUP supporters to vote for the CNRP in local elections held earlier this month.

“He just talked to me. He said his supporters will vote for the CNRP but I was not interested because if he had supporters he would nominate candidates for sure,” Chhay Eang said.

“CNRP policy is to unite nationalist Cambodian people and democrats. We do not reject any party that wants to work with the CNRP. We welcome them,” he added.

A letter signed on June 7 by Chhoun Sovann, Phnom Penh police chief, ordered the authorities to confiscate 15 rifles from Bun Chhay, saying he had already turned in 10 handguns and a rifle to military officials.

Chhoun Sovann and Kirt Chantharith, national police spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

Bun Chhay told VOA Khmer last week that the allegations against him were untrue and a “misunderstanding”.

In July 1997, Bun Chhay led royalist Funcinpec forces against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s troops in clashes that ousted co-prime minister Norodom Ranariddh.

Meas Ny, an analyst, said that Bun Chhay should resign from the leadership of the KNUP to avoid further damaging the party’s image.

“If the KNUP, an independent party, joins hands with the CNRP and Nhek Bun Chhay, it could bring dangers for the CNRP, because the CPP could accuse the CNRP of having the backing of elements of the military and it could lead to a 1997 scenario again,” he said.