Jailed Deputy Commune Chief Quits Opposition, Joins CPP

A deputy commune chief jailed last month announced his resignation from the CNRP on Thursday to join the ruling party, and a relative of a second jailed opposition commune official said he was approached to defect, but rejected the offer.

Ly Sokun, the second deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak I commune, in Tuol Kok district, who has been detained at Prey Sar prison since being accused of improprieties during voter registration, resigned in a letter dated March 3.

“Previously, I believed in their inciting, alluring words and promises and that’s why I walked the wrong path with [the] CNRP’s political activities,” he wrote.

Mr. Sokun was charged with forgery and forging a public document after allegedly passing along the ID card of an ill voter-registration monitor to someone else at the end of last year so they could be a substitute.

The CNRP slammed the charges as politically motivated, given that Mr. Sokun’s position at the top of the opposition’s commune list for the upcoming June elections would make him commune chief if the CNRP won there.

But in a letter to CNRP President Kem Sokha, Mr. Sokun said the party had let him down. “The party is not responsible for subordinates,” he wrote. “There is no justice and transparency in preparing candidates.”

In his letter to the CPP, on the other hand, Mr. Sokun struck a conciliatory note.

“I request to join the CPP with honesty and without conditions and I promise to lobby CNRP supporters to join with CPP,” he wrote.

Meng Sopheary, a defense lawyer for Mr. Sokun appointed by the CNRP, said that she had learned about her client’s resignation through social media.

“I have not gotten any updated information from the party to stop defending him or from him saying he doesn’t want me to defend him,” she said.

CNRP Vice President Eng Chhay Eang could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday that “the CNRP is happy and congratulates [Mr. Sokun] if the ruling party can intervene” for his release.

Separately, Chao Veasna, a Poipet deputy commune chief and CNRP election candidate who was arrested around the same time as Mr. Sokun on incitement charges, was approached by officials who lobbied him to resign from the CNRP, according to his son-in-law Phoeung Sophoeun.

“He told us that there were some officials who visited him in prison and requested him to resign from the CNRP if he wanted to get out,” Mr. Sophoeun said. “But my father-in-law confirmed that his stance remains the same, so he will not resign from the CNRP.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan could not be reached for comment.

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