The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is providing financial and material support to the beleaguered Funcinpec Party to cover its rent, electricity, transportation and general administration expenses, as well as offering political training to its younger members, senior leaders of the royalist party said Wednesday.
Funcinpec was created by then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk in February 1981 as an armed resistance to the Vietnamese-installed regime in Phnom Penh and went on to win the 1993 U.N.-organized national election under Prince Norodom Ranariddh after the negotiated close to the country’s decade-long civil war.
The party served as an increasingly disempowered partner in each subsequent coalition government before winning no seats for the first time in last year’s election.
Keo Puth Rasmey, who served as the Funcinpec’s president after the party ousted Prince Ranariddh in 2006, and whose wife serves as its current president, said that the support from China is comprised both of educational exchanges and direct material support.
“There are two kinds of support: The political support, like when we do exchange visits, and…material support, which we receive every year,” said Mr. Puth Rasmey by telephone, listing computers and small tractors for villagers as examples of recent provisions from the CCP.
He explained that Chinese delegates visiting Cambodia last month had also agreed to provide 20 Chinese-made 125cc motorcycles and 180 electric bicycles to the Funcinpec Party to help the hard-pressed party’s officials campaign in rural areas.
“The money depends on our needs,” Mr. Puth Rasmey said. “We cannot ask for material and then not use them, and sell them to the market instead. It belongs to Funcinpec to request modestly and reasonably according to our needs.”
Mr. Rasmey’s wife, Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, is a half-sister of King Norodom Sihamoni and the youngest daughter of late King Father Sihanouk.
General Nhek Bun Chhay, who served as a military commander in the Funcinpec resistance in the 1980s and is now both a government adviser and the party’s secretary-general, said that the Chinese government’s support for Funcinpec was varied.
“Indeed, China always helps donating office supplies such as computers, motorbikes, laptops, printer, photocopy machines, electric bicycles and other office supplies,” he said.
“China helps every government and political party aiming to keep good relationships and to keep balance for all, meaning that China treats every political party that maintains a strong relationship with it fairly,” Gen. Bun Chhay explained.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, who was a founding member of the Funcinpec resistance forces, to whom the Chinese communists provided both arms and money up until the early 1990s, explained that support from the communists is today provided as requested.
“They also provide us with little sums of money to pay for rent and electricity, and things like that,” said Prince Sirirath, who also served as Cambodia’s ambassador to the U.N. and its co-minister of defense for Funcinpec after the restoration of peace.
“It’s because of the historical bond that is very strong between the Funcinpec and the Communist Party of China and because the royal family of Cambodia has a very strong commitment to supporting the One China policy,” Prince Sirirath said.
“The CCP also wants to maintain this relationship to balance the political scene in Cambodia so that no one party can claim to have a better relationship with it,” he said.
Prince Sihanouk first established diplomatic relations with the CCP regime in 1958. In 1965, the same year the first U.S. troops landed in South Vietnam, the Prince’s regime in Phnom Penh also began allowing the Chinese government to ship supplies through Cambodia to support the struggle of the communists in Vietnam.
In return, the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties throughout the late 1960s advised the nascent communist movement in Cambodia to postpone its revolutionary activities until Prince Sihanouk was voted out of power by the National Assembly in March 1970.
Cheng Hong Bo, who heads the political section of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that he could not offer specifics about ongoing or past deals to support Funcinpec, but confirmed an agreement was signed last month to provide motorcycles.
“We gave motorcycles to the party to go to their offices and go to the countryside,” he said, also pointing to historical ties. “Actually, the Funcinpec and the CCP have enjoyed a very long history of supporting the party here. These party-to-party relations are a very important part of our bilateral relationship [with Cambodia].”
Mr. Puth Rasmey said a memorandum was signed between Funcinpec and the CCP in 2011 that governs the relationship between the parties and provides for political exchanges.
“Next month, we will send 15 youth from Funcinpec to China, taking youth from most provinces, and they will go to study how they enter the communist party, how the party selects people, how the people express their needs,” Mr. Puth Rasmey explained.
“There are also scholarships, and they go for one or five years to study the technical sciences. Last year, we sent two, and this year we will request two or three,” he said.