Nhiek Bun Chhay To Avoid NW Campaigning

Former resistance commander Nhiek Bun Chhay, believed to be the most popular Funcinpec leader in the country’s northwestern border provinces, said he will not visit that region during the current commune elections campaign period.

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh will campaign in Battambang province today and Banteay Meanchey province on Friday. There is no scheduled stop in Oddar Mean­chey province, where troops loyal to Funcinpec and led by Nhiek Bun Chhay fought CPP-led soldiers at O’Smach in 1997 and 1998.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, who is now second vice president of the Senate, and other former resistance commanders have complained that they don’t feel free to travel in the northwest. He said Monday that Funcinpec has assigned former resistance commander and former Battambang governor Serey Kosal to take responsibility for campaigning in the northwest.

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he has not ordered Nhiek Bun Chhay to stay away from the northwest.

“He can travel to any place that is safe for him,” said the prince.

Prince Ranariddh said he expects his party will have a “strong or even stronger” showing at the Feb 3 local elections, compared to the 1993 and 1998 national elections. Funcinpec received 31 percent of the vote in 1998 and 45 percent in 1993.

Ranariddh said he was hopeful that voters in Kandal and Kom­pong Cham provinces will elect a large number of Funcinpec commune council candidates.

“We have to collect our votes” lost to the Sam Rainsy Party in the 1998 election, the prince said.

He denied that Fun­cinpec and CPP were targeting the Sam Rainsy Party for criticism.

“There is no attack. We only protect and get our votes for the party,” he said. “So far, we have seen no violence and the parties have respected each other.”

On Sunday, the National Elec­tion Committee indirectly or­dered the Sam Rainsy Party to cease distribution of leaflets  bearing the image of King Norodom Sihanouk.

Ranariddh said his royalist party is not using the King’s name or image for political gain during the campaign.

However, he said, Funcinpec is crediting the King for creating Funcinpec in 1981.

The NEC has not opposed this, Ranariddh said.


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