F’pec Official Signals Desire to Step Down

Amid reports of ailing health, Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah said earlier this week he is prepared to step down once a qualified replacement is found.

“I have looked around for someone to replace me, but [so far] haven’t found anyone who wants to take [the position],” Tol Lah said Monday. “And I have no idea who would replace me. However, if someone did, I would be comfortable.”

Although rumors of Tol Lah’s retirement have gained substance in recent weeks, top party officials denied that the appointment of a new secretary general would be discussed at the party’s congress, which starts Sunday.

Serey Kosal, party deputy secretary general and security adviser to Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said Tues­day: “I also have heard [this rumor], but it’s not true.”

And Khou Meng Hean, secretary of state for the Ministry of Par­liamentary Relations and Inspection, insisted the only topics up for discussion at the congress are party policy issues and preparations to be made for the upcoming commune elections.

Defending the secretary general against critics’ assertions that Tol Lah is too ill to perform his duties and has been partisan in his choice of appointments, Khou Meng Hean said: “…He has an excellent mind…And he compares favorably to former secretary generals like [current Thmei Sangkum Party leader] Loy Sim Chheang and Prince Norodom Sirivudh.”

However, Sam Kanitha, a Fun­cinpec senator and former Nat­ional Assembly member, pointed out that a party statute grants Prince Ranariddh broad powers, including the right to appoint an official at a party congress. “There would be no need to …make a proposal before the congress starts,” Sam Kanitha said.

Meanwhile, a number of highly placed Funcinpec officials say they are supporting Senator Nhiek Bun Chhay, who has repeatedly denied reports he is seeking the position of party secretary general.


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