Former opposition member Nop Bunhor has decided to join the ruling CPP after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered his arrest for spreading rumours of Kem Sokha’s release from prison, where he remains jailed on treason charges.
During a speech to thousands of garment workers on Wednesday, Mr Hun Sen accused Mr Bunhor of assembling a group of supporters to greet Mr Sokha after his release from prison on Thursday.
“Nop Bunhor is the instigator. I would like to order the police to arrest him because he is the mastermind,” he said. “Who is to release Kem Sokha if the court has yet to convict him?”
Mr Sokha was jailed last year on treason charges after being accused of colluding with the United States to overthrow the government. Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday extended his pre-trial detention for a second time by six months.
Mr Bunhor yesterday said he joined the ruling CPP to guarantee his safety and continue his political career.
“I do not want to answer this because all of you know it,” Mr Bunhor said. “I swore and I have to follow them now that I have defected. I joined one family and we have to respect the tradition of that family.”
Mr Bunhor said that the CPP is a good party to join and that it is capable of developing the country.
“I am old and I want to live the rest of my life to serve the nation as much as I can and support the livelihood of my family,” he said.
Regarding Mr Sokha, Mr Bunhor said the political climate is changing and he is unsure when Mr Sokha would be released from prison.
“I don’t know when they’ll set him free,” he said. “Until that day, we’ll just have to monitor.”
Mr Bunhor was not the only former opposition member to join the CPP over the weekend.
Chamkar Mon district Governor Prom Samkhan said yesterday that five former opposition officials have also joined the party, but declined to provide details.
Ou Chanrath, a former opposition lawmaker, said yesterday that it was likely Mr Bunhor joined the CPP under duress.
“The CPP makes people betray their own principles. They defected out of fear for their safety,” Mr Chanrath said. “He did it because of pressure – in order to avoid prosecution.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday that the CPP welcomes anyone who wants to join the party.
“It is their political right. Now they realised they were in the wrong party and we welcome them joining our party,” Mr Eysan said.