Funcinpec Clarifies Stand on Politically Active Royals

Responding to dismay express­ed by royal family members within its own ranks, Funcinpec issued a statement Thursday to clarify party Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay’s affirmation that Cambo­dia’s royals should retire from politics.

In supporting Prime Minister Hun Sen’s proposal for royals to retire, Nhiek Bun Chhay had only intended to make reference to “a recent small group of royal family members” whose political participation has “always provoked political crisis and instability in Cambodia,” according to a Funcinpec statement dated Feb 8.

“Nhiek Bun Chhay’s comment didn’t target or intend to affect the reputations and dignity of any royal family members who have kept up good traditions and customs,” the statement said. Royal family members should ultimately be the ones to decide on whether or not they should engage in politics, as “it is not Funcinpec’s duty or other political parties to make the decision,” the statement added.

Nhiek Bun Chhay said Wednes­day that he supported Hun Sen’s comments on royals in politics and that, given the current circumstances, royal family members should refrain from being involved in politics. Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said the party’s clarification was issued after Nhiek Bun Chhay heard that some royal family members within the party were not happy with his comments. “His first comment was short, so people were confused and thought he wanted to prevent the royal family from doing politics,” he said.

Funcinpec deputy president Prince Sisowath Sirirath said that he was among those who had questioned Nhiek Bun Chhay after his comment Wednesday. “I can accept the clarification—[the matter] is finished,” he said.

The prince added that Nhiek Bun Chhay told him he hadn’t intended to make the comments about the royals. “He had a cold and was in a bad mood,” the prince said.

The lack of consensus on royal family issues could be a weak point for Funcinpec, Comfrel Director Koul Panha said. “Funcinpec can be shaken if the party raises royal family issues,” he said. “There are two factions—one that wants the royal family out of politics, and the other that wants [them] to stay in politics.”


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