Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, party lawmakers and Funcinpec officials have been speaking out against the government and the CPP recently, calling their coalition partner “unfair.”
At least one Funcinpec official said that if Funcinpec officials do not make a stand now, before the national elections slated for July 2003, the party could be further marginalized.
The recent announcement by controversial Prince Norodom Chakrapong that he is founding the Norodom Chakrapong Khmer Spirit Party also threatens to divide Funcinpec, which experienced heavy losses during February’s commune elections.
One Funcinpec lawmaker who recently took a stand against the CPP was Phan Chanta, who this week spoke out on the National Assembly floor and accused the CPP of buying votes during the commune elections.
Phan Chanta, known as an outspoken lawmaker, accused the CPP Tuesday of “breaching communal election laws by [bribing] voters within the banned 24 hours before the February 3, 2002, election.”
His allegations against the CPP were the first accusations made against the ruling party inside the National Assembly since March, when the Funcinpec Congress was held and party leaders promised to speak out against the coalition government’s senior partner.
Other Funcinpec members, however, have also spoken out recently against the CPP, but have used a much more subtle approach than Phan Chanta or the Sam Rainsy Party, which is known for its verbal attacks against the government.
Prince Ranariddh, for example, indirectly came out against the CPP last week during a legislative hearing on the postal service law. During that assembly discussion, he criticized the high costs of telephone calls in Cambodia, asking, “Why are phone costs getting so expensive in Cambodia if the air is free of charge?” But rather than making his own attack, the prince said an “old man” asked him the question.
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun, who is a CPP member, has been criticized for taking a monthly salary from MobiTel, the largest telephone company in the country.
In another instance, Funcinpec lawmaker Sok San reacted strongly Tuesday at the National Assembly after Finance Minister Keat Chhon credited the CPP for making the commune elections possible.
Sok San demanded that Keat Chhon stop talking about the CPP’s interests in parliament. CPP National Assembly First Deputy President Heng Samrin, however, disregarded Sok San and replied, “No, [Keat Chhon] was just describing the facts.”
Heng Samrin serves as chairman of the National Assembly when Prince Ranariddh is absent during meetings.
From there, the argument gained momentum. Outspoken Funcinpec lawmaker Nan Sy also jumped into the fray, saying that, “It’s not a political party we should be grateful to for organizing the commune elections. It was the people who made it possible.”
Nan Sy then criticized the government for discouraging foreign investors from doing business in Cambodia.
More substantially, Funcinpec members have drafted legislation calling for the restructuring of the National Election Committee recently, which is now being reviewed by the National Assembly‘s legislative commission.
The NEC bill was touted as “legally the strongest Funcinpec challenge to the CPP,” according to the bill’s author, Funcinpec lawmaker Keo Remy.
The NEC bill, among other things, challenged the partisan membership of the NEC.
When talking about lessons learned from the 2002 commune elections Tuesday, Prince Ranariddh said people didn’t vote for Funcinpec because they believed “[Funcinpec] was too quiet. So we had better speak out.”