Confusion dominated the top ranks of Funcinpec on Tuesday after party Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay issued three different types of invitations for a hastily convened national congress at party headquarters today. One invite said the meeting was to discuss commune elections. Another stated that it was to formally announce the appointment of 10 new Funcinpec government officials voted in by the National Assembly on Monday.
A third said the meeting would be an extraordinary party congress.
A rumor also swept through the party that the meeting could be held to try and vote out Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and replace him with Cambodian Ambassador to Germany Keo Puth Rasmey.
Funcinpec’s Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng said he doubted the embattled prince was about to lose his position, though he was not certain what the meeting was for.
“I don’t think they will remove [Prince Ranariddh]. He will keep the same title,” Lu Laysreng said.
Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment.
Two Funcinpec officials close to Nhiek Bun Chhay said on condition of anonymity that the congress will be called on to vote to replace Prince Ranariddh with Keo Puth Rasmey.
Keo Puth Rasmey did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.
Serei Kosal, adviser to Prince Ranariddh and a senior minister until he was voted out on Monday, said that he was confused by the invites.
“I don’t know what is going on. I am watching right now to see what happens next,” he said.
If the meeting is an extraordinary congress, it could be used as an opportunity to elect a replacement for Prince Ranariddh, Serei Kosal said, though he added that this would contravene Funcinpec’s internal rules, as the prince is president for life.
“If the council was to select the president it would be illegal so I have no concern that this will happen,” he said, adding that he has not been invited.
Adding to the rumor mill, CPP Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon issued a statement granting permission for Funcinpec government officials to attend the hastily organized meeting.
Prince Ranariddh’s spokesman Chea Chanboribo, who was also removed Monday as secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, issued a brief statement late on Tuesday saying that he has resigned from the party.
Chea Chanboribo could not be reached for comment.
Prince Sisowath Kola Chat, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, said he was uncertain if the rumors about a vote to oust Prince Ranariddh were true.
“If the majority votes to remove Prince Norodom Ranariddh, we have no choice,” he said, adding that he did not support replacing the prince and would be too busy to attend the meeting.
Ok Socheat, public affairs adviser to Prince Ranariddh, said an extraordinary congress would be contrary to party rules, as only the president can call one.
“I talked to the prince and he said that, whether it was good or bad, he cannot accept the result of the meeting because it was not allowed by the by-law,” Ok Socheat said.