Village politician changes sides

Ven Rathavong and Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Yoeun Yong removes a poster promoting his former party. KT/Ven Rathavong

After six years with the opposition, deputy commune chief Yoeun Yong has decided to jump ship and join the ruling CPP for the upcoming commune elections.
Mr. Yong’s name was the seventh to appear on the CNRP ballot paper for the Koh Anlong Chin commune in Kandal province’s S’ang district, a ranking he was not happy with.
He claimed he belonged higher on the list after all the sacrifices he had made.
“They have betrayed me,” Mr. Yong told Khmer Times.
He had been a member of the Human Rights Party (HRP), which along with other parties merged with the Sam Rainsy Party in 2012 to form the main opposition CNRP.
He had been with the Human Rights Party since 2011 and was elected second deputy commune chief a year later. Back then, his name would appear at the top of the ballot paper for the HRP.
However, now he was seventh on the list, a ranking he said was arbitrarily made without a selection process or internal election.
“I’ve spent thousands of dollars, my own money I earned from my gourd farm and other vegetable crops, to carry out political activities for the CNRP,” he said.
“Sometimes my wife would have to borrow money from rich people in the commune, at a very high interest rate, to help run the party’s political activities.”  
The time and money he’s dedicated to the CNRP is so vast, he said, that he no longer has anything saved up for his family and is unable to replace old motorcycles. His entire salary has been channeled towards propping up the CNRP in his commune.
“I was very disappointed with commune-level leaders in the party because they have very poor leadership and there is nepotism in the party,” he said.
“Why did they kick me out from the first rank to the very bottom of the list?”
During the interview with Khmer Times, Mr. Yong repeatedly expressed his disappointment in being outranked by his colleagues, whom he claimed paid their way to the top.
He claims that the candidate ranked first on the list had to pay the party $1,000, while the others paid in decreasing amounts.
“For example, a new candidate who is ranked second on the list would have paid several hundred dollars to take my previous ranking,” he said.
“This is corruption and nepotism in the party.”
He said this was the reason he chose to join the CPP. He also noted the CNRP’s guidelines when discussing sensitive issues with the public, like issues concerning Vietnam, sand dredging and land grabbing, as being another thorn in his side.
“The CNRP leaders always urged us to incite local people to be angry with the Vietnamese minority living in the country,” he claimed.
“They accuse them of living or working illegally in the kingdom and also ask leaders to raise issues regarding the Cambodia-Vietnam border.”
Khmer Times could not independently verify Mr. Yong’s claims and CNRP lawmaker Chan Chen, from Kandal province, declined to comment on the issue.
Seang Kimny, the head of the CNRP’s executive committee in S’ang district, claimed Mr. Yong had agreed to accept the seventh ranking on the ballot list, but later rescinded his support when his wife was displeased.
“Later, he said his wife did not agree with [the ranking] but at that point, we didn’t know how to resolve it as the list of names had already been sent to the Interior Ministry,” he said.
“We couldn’t make any changes because he reacted after we sent in the list.”
He added that had Mr. Yong made his dissatisfaction known early on, changes could have been made. However, his protest came too late for the party to be able to accommodate him.
“We regret his departure because normally when they leave, their whole family leaves so we lose some votes. We want to be positive and we don’t want anyone leaving. We need to stand united to change the future,” Mr. Kimny said.
Ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said, however, that Mr. Yong’s resignation was no surprise given the party’s fractured leadership and unclear policies.
“Our party welcomes not only him but everyone wanting to join us,” he said.
“In my opinion, people are defecting to CPP because other parties lack leadership in general and have no clear long term policies,” he said, adding that the CPP did not collect money from candidates in exchange for higher ranks on ballot lists.
“If it’s true that the opposition party is getting money from each candidate to be placed at the top of the list, this means that the party is violating the fundamental and democratic rights in Cambodian society.”
On Monday Rmam Yout, the commune chief in Ratanakkiri province’s Pate commune, opted to join the CPP because his name was excluded from the CNRP candidate list for the upcoming election.
In January, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator Chhay Thy, a longtime government critic and rights worker, also jumped ship to join the CPP. He was later listed as a candidate for the Pate commune chief position.
Twelve parties will contest the upcoming commune elections on June 4 but only two – the CPP and CNRP – have candidates in all 1,646 communes.

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