The CNRP withdrew without notice three long-serving councilors who expected to be on the ballot in the lone opposition-controlled commune in Ratanakkiri province, replacing them with lesser-known candidates, the officials said Friday.
Romam Yuot, chief of Pate commune, said on Friday that he and his two colleagues from the Sam Rainsy Party were shocked to learn their names were not on the National Election Committee’s list. Pate, in O’yadaw district, along Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, is the only commune that went for the CNRP in the last election.
“I did not do anything wrong and why did they push us away?” Mr. Yuot asked. “They replaced us with new people without giving us reasons.”
Sing Yuy, a deputy chief of Pate commune, said that he had tried hard to serve the people in the commune, to win their hearts, and was replaced by an unqualified candidate. The third councilor absent from the ballot was identified as Rocham Voek.
More than 88,000 candidates will be vying for the 11,572 seats up for grabs nationally in the June 4 commune elections, the National Election Committee announced on March 6.
The ruling CPP and its main challenger, the CNRP, both registered one primary candidate and one reserve for every seat in the country’s 1,646 communes.
Iem Oeun, deputy chief of the CNRP in Ratanakkiri province, said on Friday that three councilors should be among the candidates because they are popular with the ethnic Jarai community that makes up the commune’s residents. He did not know who removed the three, but said the candidate list was prepared by rivals among the commune’s CNRP officials.
“I think it could lose the seats because Jarai people believe in them,” Mr. Oeun said.
Chhay Thy, a former longtime coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri, who jumped ship to the ruling party in January, also is running for commune chief in Pate. He said that he was unsure why the three councilors were abandoned by the party, but believed the new candidates could have been named in a strategic move to deal with his candidacy.
The Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party, which merged to form the CNRP just ahead of the 2013 national elections, won a combined 26 percent of the commune seats in 2012, but secured only 2 percent of the commune chief spots.
Mr. Yuy and Mr. Yuot, who had served for at least 10 years, said that despite being removed as candidates, they remained loyal to the CNRP.
“We do not betray the party and join CPP,” Mr. Yuy said. “The people will lose hope.”

roeun@cambodiadaily.com
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