Funcinpec Deputies Won’t Make Waves, Officials Say

Funcinpec has yet to fill its top Phnom Penh municipality post, but whoever takes the job won’t interfere with the work of CPP Governor Chea Sophara, Fun­cinpec officials said this week.

And one senior party official said RCAF General Lay Virak, who helped lead forc­es against the CPP in 1997 and 1998, was a candidate for a top Funcinpec slot in the municipality.

Minister of Information Lu Laysreng, a Funcinpec steering committee member, said in an interview Tuesday that none of the candidates would make waves when they are selected as deputies to a post that was supposed to have been Funcinpec’s in the first place. Rather, he said, they will continue a policy of cooperation with the CPP agreed upon by the party.

Deputy Prime Minister Tol Lah, secretary-general of the party’s steering committee, agreed. “We all in the government…have an agreement on cooperation,” he said Tuesday. “They have to work together.”

Funcinpec and CPP led armies ag­ainst each other in the 1980s and have had often rocky relations since creating a coalition gov­ernment together in 1993. The union broke down in July 1997 when fighting erupted in the capital. But the two rivals opted to cooperate again following 1998’s national elections.

Funcinpec, though, did not fill its top city post and the slot of Phnom Penh governor remained vacant until November, when Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to elevate Chea Sophara, then the first deputy governor. The move surprised many observers, including some Funcinpec members.

It remained unclear Tuesday who would fill Funcinpec’s top city posts but a list of candidates has been forwarded to Prince Ranariddh, and the announcement of the selections will be “very soon,” Lu Laysreng said.

Than Sina, secretary of state for the Ministry of the Interior, said Tuesday that he had heard he would be appointed as first dep­uty governor, and RCAF General Lay Virak would be second deputy governor. Than Sina said he was waiting to hear confirmation of the appointment.

Lay Virak led resistance forces from the northwestern provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey against CPP-commanded troops following 1997’s violent coalition split.

Lu Laysreng said the selection of deputy governors would serve to counterbalance some of Chea Sophara’s power.

Any decision made by the governor must have consensus from his first deputy governor, Lu Laysreng said, giving them some leverage in city policies.

The party will hold a steering committee meeting on Thursday. The meeting would likely only serve to restructure the party, moving people and positions around to make the party “more efficient,” Tol Lah said. But Lu Laysreng said it could serve as a chance to discuss the commune elections and political strategy. (Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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