About 100 members of the ultra-nationalist Khmer Front Party broke ranks with its political ally, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, on Friday and took over the NRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh in retaliation for the firing of a KFP member, party members said.
KFP spokesman Kim Sok said the NRP office in Tuol Kok district was seized in retaliation for the unexplained firing of Meas Sokun, who was originally a member of the Front but held the post of NRP chief for Banteay Meanchey province and was a member of the party’s board of directors.
Kim Sok also said that the front was legally entitled to take over the office because when KFP changed its name in 2006, it allowed the creation of the NRP during a time when Prince Norodom Ranariddh was having difficulty establishing a new party from scratch.
“This morning, our aim was not to take over the office,” Kim Sok explained in a telephone interview.
“We were just demanding a strike, with no violence, in order to get the leadership of the Norodom Ranariddh Party to come out and solve the problems,” he said.
“But they didn’t agree, so we will control the headquarters temporarily until the leadership comes to solve the problems,” he said.
Following his return from exile abroad in October, Prince Ranariddh said that he would retire entirely from politics. This sparked questions regarding the future of the NRP and the co-opted KFP.
Kim Sok said Friday that Prince Ranariddh had signed a Memorandum of Understanding that said, “In case Samdech Krom Preah ceases to lead, the party must be handed back to the Khmer Front Party.”
The KFP’s acting president, Em Sitha, will lead the breakaway front loyalists, he added.
Large signs in front of the disputed office with the NRP name and an image of the prince were defaced Friday with black and red spray paint.
Kim Sok, however, said that KFP supporters had merely placed a new Front sign over the NRP sign on Street 608.
Suth Dina, NRP deputy secretary-general, said Friday that he supported the actions of the KFP members, and accused the prince of interfering in the NRP despite claiming to have resigned from politics. Suth Dina claimed that the prince had ordered NRP Secretary-General You Hockry to fire Meas Sokun after she refused to apologize to the prince regarding an unspecified mistake.
However, the NRP in a statement alleged Meas Sokun was fired for “looking down and using inappropriate language” with the prince.
You Hockry could not be contacted for comment.
The prince’s spokesman, Chea Chanboribo, denied that the prince was involved with the dispute.
“The prince has already quit from the party’s issues. The prince has already handed the party to His Excellencies You Hockry and Chhim Seak Leng,” Chea Chanboribo said, noting that the prince was also not involved with the firing of Meas Sokun.
Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth said Friday that his office exists to protect the public, so officers didn’t involve themselves in what was an internal party dispute.
Police witnessed the image of the prince being spray painted, he said. “It was the property destruction, but let them file the complaint to the court,” Touch Naruth said.