Quietly chastised for Funcinpec’s ongoing slide in popularity, a cluster of longtime royalist ministers have been reassigned roles overseeing various authorities and committees in the next government’s Council of Ministers.
The move is seen as a strategy by party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh to appease the ministers, who make up a significant power base within Funcinpec, while carrying out the inner-party reform he has pledged since last year’s elections.
The former ministers have been rechristened “senior ministers” with no control over specific ministries but instead will take the reins of Council of Ministers bodies, such as the National AIDS Authority, National Tourism Authority and National Disaster Management Authority.
Seven of the 15 senior ministers appointed last week are from Funcinpec. They include former co-minister of interior You Hokry, former health minister Hong Sun Huot, former tourism minister Veng Sereyvuth, former public works minister Khy Taing Lim, former minister of parliamentary relations and inspection Khun Haing, senator Serey Kosal and education minister Kol Pheng.
Several of those ministers have faced private and public criticism from other factions of Funcinpec for kowtowing to the CPP.
Prince Ranariddh, wary of the officials’ party clout, relegated the ministers to their new positions to “keep everybody happy,” one Funcinpec official said Sunday.
“Look at their responsibility, it’s less than what they had. But they’re happy to keep a title and position,” the official said.
Juggling ministers was considered a major task for Prince Ranariddh in keeping party unity while promoting a younger cadre of royalists represented by party Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who has replaced You Hokry at the Interior Ministry.
But conspicuously absent from the royalists’ new portfolio is Mu Sochua, the former minister of Women’s Affairs, who is viewed as one of the party’s strongest reformers. Mu Sochua has no seat in the National Assembly, either.