Lon Nol’s Son Forms Party With Eye on 2008 Polls

A political party formed last week by the son of former Khmer Re­pu­blic president Lon Nol, who overthrew then-Prince Norodom Siha­nouk in 1970, will compete in the 2008 national elections, a party official said in Phnom Penh on Mond­a­y­.

“We are forming the Khmer Republican Party because we want to restore national unity, to free people from poverty,” Nhean Preah, the party’s secretary-general, told a press conference at the Sunway Hotel.

“The biggest goal we have in mind is for us to help contribute to national development.”

It is unclear if Lon Nol’s 47-year-old son Lon Rithi, a resident of Long Beach, California, will return to Cambodia to participate in the party’s work, said Nhean Preah, who is also a Long Beach resident.

On March 18, 1970, Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak ousted Norodom Sihanouk in a coup and proclaimed the US-backed Khmer Republic, Cambodia’s government until Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

Nhean Preah said his party had no interest in staging another coup. “We shall respect all the laws and the Constitution as [other] people do,” he said. “We aren’t talking about the past,” he added. “Our Khmer Republican Party is like a computer with a new system installed in it, like blank paper.”

Nhean Preah said the Interior Ministry had recognized his party Feb 12. Ministry spokesman Lieu­tenant General Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.

Norodom Ranariddh Party spokes­man Muth Channtha said he doubted the party would have much success.

“We are not worried by these republicans. We know that the Khmer people were hurt because of genocide and war and that Lon Nol was partly to blame,” he said.

Prince Sisowath Sirirath, second Funcinpec deputy president, said the party was within its rights but facing long odds.

“They’ve the right as we all do. We live in a democracy,” he said. In the past there were one or two republican parties,” he added. “They did not win the elections.”

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a nephew of Norodom Sihanouk, declined to comment on how the retired King might react to the re­publican party’s formation.

(Ad­di­tional reporting by Douglas Gillison.)


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