The number of CNRP officials that have defected to the ruling CPP has reached 43 since Prime Minister Hun Sen opened the door to them ahead of the likely dissolution of their party in the near future.
The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing to debate the dissolution of the CNRP for November 16 following complaints against it by Funcinpec and the Cambodian Youth Party in the wake of its leader Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges.
Mr Hun Sen last month said the dissolution of the party was very likely and invited any CNRP officials that wanted to keep their commune positions to defect to the ruling CPP.
As of yesterday, a total of 43 opposition members had defected, including CNRP lawmaker Long Buny, a provincial councillor, as well as four municipal and district councillors, two commune chiefs, 12 deputy commune councillors and 23 commune councillors from 14 provinces, according to a CNRP tally.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan confirmed many opposition party members had defected to the CPP, but could not provide a figure.
Mr Sokha was arrested on September 3 over comments made in 2013 video footage from Australia-based CBN news, which showed him saying the US government had been helping him to push for regime change in Cambodia since 1993.
Mr Eysan noted that Mr Sokha is likely suffering from a double blow while imprisoned awaiting his trial.
“He is in jail himself, and outside, he has to watch his party break apart internally,” he said.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, also said the CNRP is collapsing from within even before its possible dissolution.
“It is their right if they want to defect.”
“Those defectors are afraid to lose their positions when the CNRP is dissolved, but if the CNRP is not dissolved they will not have any position,” he added.
Senior opposition party officials Son Chhay, Pol Ham and Mao Monyvann could not be reached for comment.