The hosting of a large ceremony today at Funcinpec headquarters to mark retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s 84th birthday will prove once and for all that the party is still truly royalist, Funcinpec’s spokesman Nouv Sovathero said.
“We are royalists. We don’t betray the monarchy,” Nouv Sovathero said Monday.
“Retired King Norodom Sihanouk was the party’s founder,” he said, adding that the celebration will be attended by Funcinpec officials from across the country as well as scores of Buddhist monks.
But Ok Socheat, public affairs adviser to Funcinpec’s recently ousted president Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said the royalist celebration was nothing but an illusion created by Funcinpec’s Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay.
“They are not royalists. They celebrate the ceremony to confuse the people,” Ok Socheat said.
Even retired King Sihanouk has referred to Prince Ranariddh’s ousting by his own party as a “coup,” Ok Socheat added.
Funcinpec officials announced Sunday that Prince Ranariddh had been stripped of his title as Funcinpec “historical president” and fired from his job as a lawmaker. The prince’s removal followed his submission of a request to the Interior Ministry seeking permission to establish his new Norodom Ranariddh Party.
Ok Socheat said that many of Prince Ranariddh’s supporters wanted to celebrate the retired king’s birthday today, but were afraid of Nhiek Bun Chhay’s “group.”
Prince Sisowath Thomico, general delegate of the Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party, said that newly appointed Funcinpec President Keo Puth Rasmey and Nhiek Bun Chhay were not true royalists.
“Celebrating retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s birthday doesn’t mean that they are royalists,” Prince Thomico added.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that three competing royalist parties would only hurt their election chances.
“The three factions will split the royalists’ votes,” he said.