Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh and second vice president Nhiek Bun Chhay left for China on Sunday to meet with officials from the Chinese Communist Party, the Cambodian royalist party’s longtime benefactor and supporter.
China has provided financial support to Funcinpec since it was founded in 1981 by Prince Norodom Sihanouk as an armed resistance against the government in Phnom Penh, and today continues to provide the party with basic funds and political training.
Multiple delegations are exchanged by the parties each year but this trip is Prince Ranariddh’s first since he returned to Funcinpec’s leadership this year after his ouster as leader in 2006.
At a brief press conference before departing for China, Prince Ranariddh rejected the idea that Funcinpec has become an irrelevant force in Cambodia since the party lost all its seats in parliament.
He said that the royalist party still has a role to play in domestic and foreign policy that the opposition CNRP is unable to.
“The opposition party just relies on the culture of talking and dialogue, but…one [party] is the partner and another one is the opposition,” the prince said. “Funcinpec is a partner of the CPP, and they are the opposition party.”
Funcinpec leaders revealed last year that the Chinese Communist Party continued to provide annual training to civil servants and youth members of the party, as well as giving them electric bicycles and petty cash to pay for office rental and amenities.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, a member of the Funcinpec standing committee, said that he was not aware of the specific purpose of the present trip, but that a close relationship was forged between Funcinpec and China during the 1980s civil war.
“The Chinese Communist Party is very close to us, and had always assisted Funcinpec during our struggle. We maintain that today, and are very close to them,” Prince Sisowath explained. “No matter what, Funcinpec people will go to China, and we go there on the same level as the CPP.
“The Chinese see us at the same level,” he said.