The return of deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has prompted a number of defectors from Funcinpec to rejoin the party under his leadership, according to the prince and senior aides.
In an interview Friday with a Voice of America reporter, the prince said that during his five-day stay last week he met with several parliamentarians and ministers who had left the party, but were now planning to return.
“I have seen now several MPs who left Funcinpec came back,” the prince said.
“A lot of them make a U-turn. You know, when you are driving too fast and you miss your target and so you make your return. A lot of them take the opportunity of my arrival to make a U-turn.”
A Funcinpec insider said Sunday the prince had met Thursday evening with four renegade parliamentarians wishing to rejoin the party. Among the four were Om Radsady, director of the Funcinpec breakaway party Sangkum Thmei, and Kandal parliamentarian Pin Dam, he said.
“The prince welcomed them warmly and said he held nothing against them,” he said, but added that it was ultimately up to the Funcinpec steering committee to decide if they would be readmitted.
“The steering committee will decide on these people on a case-by-case basis. But they have a right to be cautious.”
Neither Om Radsady nor Pin Dam could be reached for comment Sunday. The names of the other two were not revealed.
Parliamentary support for the prince plummeted in the months after the fighting, with only about 20 lawmakers following him into exile. Funcinpec won 58 seats in the 1993 election.
Two former top Funcinpec members, acting National Assembly President Loy Sim Chheang and First Prime Minister Ung Huot, who replaced the prince as premier, have since formed their own political parties.
Senior Funcinpec parliamentarian Ahmad Yahya said Thursday the party expects many more renegade Funcinpec lawmakers to seek reconciliation with the prince.
“Many MPs and governors required the green light of the prince coming back to rejoin the party,” he explained, adding that Funcinpec was “in the process” of reintegrating several former renegades. Yahya declined, however, to name the individuals, saying they would make their own announcement when the process was complete.
Not all in the Ranariddh fold, however, are happy with the prince’s conciliatory attitude towards those who so recently renounced him, according to the Funcinpec insider.
“Those of us in Funcinpec who have been loyal to the prince do not believe we should give these people incentives to return,” he said. “They betray, they are opportunists. A lot of us feel like that.” Despite reservations, he said, the party is likely to accept the returned renegades for the sake of reconciliation.
“We are committed to the prince. We will follow that principle and welcome them back as brothers and sisters,” he said.
The insider said he expected an “influx” of renegades seeking to rejoin Funcinpec, charging that many now realize their smaller, breakaway parties stand little chance of winning votes.
“They see the prospect of winning the elections,” he said. “They know their parties have no chances.
Sangkum Thmei Party President Loy Sim Chheang said Sunday he does not intend to ally his party to Funcinpec or rejoin the party. “Right now that is impossible,” he said.
Funcinpec renegade and Siem Reap Governor Toan Chay said Sunday he would return to the party if the prince were to reform it, but stressed he did not believe the necessary reforms were possible. (Additional reporting by Kimsan Chantara)