Kampot province –Following the dissolution of the CNRP in November, many of its former officials defected to the ruling CPP and are now facing struggles in maintaining the support of former opposition supporters.
In Kampot province’s Techo Aphivat commune, councillor Phan Mom said that she has been discriminated against by CNRP supporters after her defection.
Ms Mom said that winning the hearts and minds of CNRP supporters in her village has been a struggle.
“Before, they supported me, but when I defected to the CPP, they began to hate me and insulted me,” Ms Mom said.
Originally a CPP supporter, Ms Mom left the party and joined the CNRP in 2015 after she became dissatisfied with CPP commune officials .
Following the dissolution of the CNRP last year and a call from Prime Minister Hun Sen for defections, she decided to rejoin her old CPP colleagues.
As Ms Mom visited residents in one of six villages in the commune yesterday, she explained her decision to jump between parties.
“I defected from the CPP because I was angry at local officials,” she said. “So I decided to support the CNRP. But I now understand that the CPP is governing the right way and now I’m back to supporting the CPP.”
However, bailing on the former opposition CNRP and hopping back to the ruling CPP had its consequences, damaging her credibility as a political leader.
She said that the tone of villagers changed drastically when they learned that she rejoined the CPP.
“They said that those who defected sold their soul and betrayed free will and other ideals,” she said. “I don’t care too much about their judgement.”
On social media, she was accused of being part of a shadow government controlled by Vietnam. She responded by opening a line of communication with villagers to make them understand her point of view, but they refused to listen.
“I tried to talk to them and but they didn’t care and didn’t respond to requests,” she said. “I am not angry for what they’re doing to me. Other commune councillors have told me to just focus on my job instead of caring so much.”
Ms Mom said that in her village alone, there were 228 former CNRP supporters and most of the ones she talked to said they were going to vote. She added that she couldn’t guarantee that they would vote for the CPP.
“I do my best to explain to them that we are all Cambodian, so we have to vote to fulfil our democratic obligation,” Ms Mom said. “I am always visiting former CNRP supporters to get them to join our side. Out of ten people I spoke to, only one said they will abstain from voting.”
Ms Mom said that people in her village wanted land titles on land they have been occupying for years as they continue to struggle with a land dispute.
She said that despite the problem, her commune has seen rapid growth in development, including roads, schools, markets and electricity grids.
Von Touch, another former CNRP official who defected to the CPP, also said that she lost some support after jumping ship and joining the CPP.
However, Ms Touch added that communication remained open with her former supporters.
Sar Sopheap, a CPP deputy Techo Aphivat commune chief, said that during the first day of campaigning, CPP members and supporters faced harsh weather in the commune as they campaigned for support from former opposition members.
“There was heavy rain every day, making it difficult for us to campaign,” she said. “We were not able to visit every home across three villages.”
Ms Sopheap said that her party was only able to penetrate roughly 20 percent of all registered voters in the commune.
“Our major concern is that if it is constantly raining, then those voters wouldn’t be able to get out of their villages and reach a polling station,” Ms Sopheap added. “But we are still finding a way for the CPP to reach those inner woodland villages.”