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Experts say ruling party chief's death not to affect political situation in Cambodia

by Xue Lei, Nguon Sovan

PHNOM PENH, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The death of Chea Sim, president of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), will not affect the country's political situation since the CPP has been united under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, political analysts here said Tuesday.

Chea Sim, who was also the president of the Senate, died of illness at his home in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Monday at the age of 83. "His death will not impact much on the political situation in Cambodia given that Prime Minister Hun Sen will surely become the next president of CPP," Chheang Vannarith, lecturer of Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Leeds in Britain, told Xinhua in an interview.

He said there used to be quite a serious factional power struggle within the CPP in the past but this has diminished overtime. "Now, the CPP is united under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and there is no sign of disintegration within the CPP's high-ranking officials," the expert said. "They are confident that the CPP will hold on to power in the next decade."

Hun Sen, who is the vice president of CPP, announced on April 29 that in the event that Chea Sim passed away, he would assume the presidency of CPP, and Say Chhum, CPP's current secretary general and 1st vice president of the Senate, would become the president of the Senate.

Chea Sim suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments for years before his death. He was the president of the National Assembly between 1981 and 1993, and became president of CPP in 1991.

He served as the president of the Senate from 1999 until his death.

Sok Touch, deputy director general of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, agreed that Chea Sim's death would not have any effect on the country's political situation because the CPP has been united as one faction. "Moreover, he had been passive for the last three years, so his presence was just symbolic," he told Xinhua.

According to Sok Touch, previously, it was observed that there were three factions within the CPP, Prime Minister Hun Sen's powerful faction, Chea Sim's faction, and Parliament chief and CPP honorary president Heng Samrin's faction, but they are now united as one after the rise in popularity of the opposition party in the 2013 elections.

Lawmaker Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said it was unlikely to see any change in political landscape after Chea Sim's death but declined to comment further, saying that it was an internal issue within the CPP.

Royalist Funcinpec party spokesman Nhep Bun Chin also declined to comment on the political future of CPP after Chea Sim's death.

"We can only say that we are deeply saddened by the death of Chea Sim because he was one of Cambodia's top political figures and had sacrificed his whole life to bring peace, stability and development to Cambodia," he said.

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