A petty power struggle over who is authorized to issue official Funcinpec letters broke out over the weekend amid the party’s efforts to integrate two formerly warring internal factions after Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned as its leader last month.
Prince Ranariddh returned as leader of the struggling royalist party on January 19, with erstwhile president Princess Norodom Arunrasmey and secretary-general Nhiek Bun Chhay—who deposed the prince as leader in 2006—assuming the roles of first and second vice president, respectively.
The new team vowed to put divisions behind them, but a letter issued Friday by Say Hak, the former governor of Preah Sihanouk province and an ally of Prince Ranariddh, appeared to reignite the tensions between Mr. Bun Chhay and the prince.
“Please, members of Funcinpec…be informed that invitation letters or other letters issued by Nhiek Bun Chhay, the second vice president of the party, using the stamp of the party, are not to be considered official letters, as those letters are made without a permission letter from Prince Norodom Ranariddh,” it says.
The letter, which was signed by Mr. Hak as the party’s “executive secretary-general” and did not specify what letters Mr. Bun Chhay had sent, was followed up on Saturday by another, signed only by Funcinpec’s “general secretariat.”
“Say Hak, a colleague of the party, does not hold any positions or have any duties in Funcinpec, because in the by-laws of Funcinpec, an executive secretary-general for the party has not yet been established,” it says. “Say Hak, the colleague, is violating the party’s by-laws and his leaders.”
Neither Mr. Bun Chhay nor Prince Ranariddh could be reached Sunday. However, Prince Sisowath Sirirath, a Funcinpec standing committee member, said the rift between the two had opened up shortly after the prince returned to the party in January.
He likened the division between the prince and Mr. Bun Chhay to the one between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“They are not on good terms. When people are not on good terms, I don’t think reconciliation can work,” he said.
“It’s like Mr. Putin and the president of Ukraine. One says withdraw, the other says no withdraw. It’s very funny, I tell you, and very hard for us in Funcinpec to keep up with it when the people at the top are not in line with each other.”