Kneeling on a muddied mat at his party’s 25th anniversary celebration Tuesday, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh donned a hardhat and dedicated the cornerstone of the party’s new Phnom Penh headquarters with jasmine buds and blessed water.
He said the rainstorm the night before, which reduced the 11-hectare construction site in Dangkao district to a muddy field, was a sign that the party would have a bright future—and that the area was free of the bad luck infesting its current headquarters next to the French Embassy.
“We accept this shower from heaven. It is a good omen for our party,” he said. “We have checked the feng shui [at the site]. It is predicted to be very good. That is why it rained several times last night.”
Hundreds of Funcinpec members from throughout the country came to the celebration, wading through several centimeters of sticky mud to sit in plastic chairs set unsteadily in the soil.
They watched a performance by traditional dancers and listened to a speech by Prince Ranariddh, who promised a new era of philanthropy and cooperation. He pledged that following his resignation as president of the National Assembly on March 3, he will work to represent the poor and would press party members to do the same.
“I will request that the government helps people. I don’t have money to build many schools, but I have built some schools and pagodas. I can help dig canals, dams or ponds, which the party can fund,” he said.
“When I was president of the National Assembly, I could not get close to the people,” he added.
Party members said they were encouraged by the speech.
“We want contact between the lawmakers and members in rural areas. We want to go see poor people and help them,” said Sman Kroy, 65, from Russei Keo district.
“I want unity between Funcinpec, CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party. Within Funcinpec, I want equality and unity. What I don’t want is for any person to be superior to any other person,” he said.
Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith expressed optimism about the future of the CPP’s struggling coalition partner.
“With cooperation, we can go ahead with many reforms,” he said. “Funcinpec is a partner, a long-term partner.”
But he added that when it came to appointments, he wanted Funcinpec “to learn from the past and to put the right man in the right place.”
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said reforms were against the very nature of Funcinpec.
“They should focus on giving up their feudalistic mentality. Their mentality, their style, their approach is out of date,” he said. “What is their message? Can Funcinpec give anything beyond blah, blah, blah?”
He added that the prince’s focus on feng shui was out of sync with modern thought.
Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San said he was not prepared to let Sam Rainsy, whom he accused of having attention deficit disorder, dampen the occasion.
“He’s such a liar. His party has trouble again and again. [Funcinpec is] like a whole chopstick,” he said.