Funcinpec will field only three royal family members as candidates in the upcoming national election, as a number of the party’s royal figures, including Prince Norodom Sirivudh, Princess Sisowath Santa and Princess Norodom Rattana Devi, have decided not to run for office.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, Funcinpec’s second deputy president, said Wednesday that the only royals serving as party candidates are himself; Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, Funcinpec’s prime minister candidate; and the little-known Princess Ang Duong Sophin.
“The royal family members are getting older. They don’t want to engage in politics,” Prince Sirirath said. “It is not good for democracy,” he said of the decline in royal political participation.
Princess Santa confirmed that she will step aside at the end of the current mandate.
Though she had come to this decision some time ago, recent remarks by Prime Minister Hun Sen asking that royal titles no longer be used inside the government or Parliament had only strengthened her resolve to leave politics, she said.
“When the government does not want us, we should withdraw,” she said. “It is serious; the government should not discriminate against royal family members. I will return to the US.”
Several other royal family members have recently removed themselves from the affairs of the state.
Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vicheara resigned from her post last year, citing health problems. A similar reason was given by Prince Norodom Chakrapong, who retired last year from his position as deputy president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party.
Prince Sisowath Panara Sirivuth had to step down as the minister of culture in June, reportedly following a stroke.
Funcinpec still has two royal family members in the Senate and a small number serving as secretaries and undersecretaries of state, but Prince Sirirath said that the latter were not added to the candidate list because they do not have enough money to campaign.
The royalist NRP might be fairing even worse with respect to fielding candidates with royal ties.
NRP spokesman and Cabinet Director Muth Channtha said that the party has a few royals as members, but would not say how many or reveal any of their names. He added, however, that the number didn’t matter, because the party has Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
“It is enough for the Norodom Ranariddh Party,” he said, adding that the prince is the NRP’s first candidate for Kompong Cham province.
Prince Ranariddh has had to conduct his election campaign from abroad, as he has been living in self-imposed exile since last year to avoid an 18-month prison sentence in Cambodia.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the royalist movement is going to suffer at the ballot box if it doesn’t have royal family members leading its campaigning for votes.
“When there are no royal family members, there will be no confidence in a pro-monarchy party,” he said.