Institute Seeks To Ruin F’pec, Prince Says

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Wednes­day once again attacked the US-based International Republican Institute, accusing the organization of “intentionally destroying” the royalist party.

“The IRI has a clear goal to crush Funcinpec and help the Sam Rainsy Party,” the prince told reporters outside the Na­tional Assembly. “They are poking their hands into Funcinpec’s in­ternal affairs. This is interference.”

The prince said he has proof that the IRI had tried to persuade Fun­cinpec officials, including Min­ister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua and Ministry of Edu­ca­tion Secretary of State Pok Than, to join the Sam Rainsy Party. Mu Sochua said Wednes­day she was approached shortly after Feb­ruary’s commune elections by an IRI official from Washington who “asked me why I don’t leave Funcinpec and join Sam Rainsy.”

The minister said she could not be sure if the proposal was IRI’s policy or only that official’s idea. “IRI should do its own job and not interfere with other people’s affairs,” she said.

Pok Than could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

IRI country representative Johanna Kao on Wednesday de­nied Prince Ranariddh’s allegations. “We work with political parties, and we’ve done fairly extensive training with Funcinpec members” as well as with members of the Sam Rainsy Party, the CPP and smaller parties, Kao said.

Prince Ranariddh said he would not be intimidated by the IRI’s alleged activities. “I am not afraid of the IRI,” he said. “Funcin­pec will stay unified as the elections approach.”

The prince “feels worried about losing members,” Kem Sokha, a former royalist senator who left Funcinpec last year, said Wednes­day. “If IRI supports democrats, it means they support people who don’t want to stay with Funcin­pec anymore.”

For the fourth time since Jan 1, the Assembly did not meet Wednesday because not enough legislators attended to make a quorum.




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