Cambodia’s primary political opposition party has formed a loose partnership with two of the country’s breakaway parties—Prince Norodom Chakrapong’s Khmer Soul Party and the Cambodian Supporting National Party, headed by former People’s Republic of Kampuchea premier Pen Sovann, according to a statement released Thursday.
Though this doesn’t represent any sort of official coalition, the statement lays out a “framework agreement” between the parties to share information going into next year’s national elections, said Phi Thach, cabinet chief of the Sam Rainsy Party.
“This just shows unity among democratic forces,” he said Thursday. “This is to create a big movement or forum to politically challenge [the government] in the elections.”
Phi Thach said the three parties have yet to establish how they will cooperate with each other.
Their statement says that all three parties will consult each other regularly. The partnership could represent a new challenge to the faltering coalition government, which has been weakened by recent Funcinpec infighting.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and Prince Chakrapong to some extent, hope to take advantage of these fractures in Funcinpec by attracting those disillusioned with their royalist party bosses. But invitations to Funcinpec members to join either party have so far produced no high-profile defections.
Sam Rainsy’s claims to have lured Princess Norodom Vacheara —one of the royalists’ most outspoken and popular legislators—away from Funcinpec have fallen flat as the princess has publicly denied she will be joining the opposition any time before the July 2003 elections.
And despite a dismal showing in February’s commune elections that reflected a loss of faith in Funcinpec’s leadership and sparked power struggles among senior party officials, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh maintains that the royalists remain unified.
Funcinpec spokesman Kol Pheng said of Thursday’s announcement, “It is the freedom of any party to make a coalition or join together like this. I have no comment, but I don’t understand why they are doing this.”
In their statement, the three parties call for elections “that reflect the real will of the Khmer citizens,” playing on opposition accusations after this year’s vote that the ruling CPP unfairly gained votes through gifts to poor villagers, who make up most of the voter base, and its domination of much of the media.