Funcinpec officials and a member of the royal family said Friday that they were taken aback by a report in a leading Khmer-language newspaper that Prince Norodom Ranariddh is planning to create a new political party and hand over the leadership of Funcinpec to retired King Norodom Sihanouk.
The front-page story in the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper attributed the statement to an unidentified source close to Funcinpec, and stated that the story could not be confirmed as the prince is outside the country.
Norodom Sihanouk has no intention of returning to Cambodian politics, said Prince Sisowath Thomico, who returned to Cambodia in recent days after leaving last year because a defamation lawsuit was filed on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen against him over comments he made about a border treaty.
“There is one point that is sure. King Sihanouk will never come back again in politics, never, so he will never accept the Funcinpec given back to him by Prince Ranariddh. It doesn’t make sense,” he said in an interview. “He cannot lead a political party which would be contrary to his status as the Father of the Nation.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec secretary-general, said he had no information about the prince planning to establish a new political party.
“I heard nothing about that,” he said, adding that he also had no information about when the prince might return to Cambodia.
Chhim Seak Leng, the party’s deputy secretary general, said it was impossible that the prince would establish his own party and hand over power to his father, but declined further comment.
Pen Samithy, Rasmei Kampuchea editor-in-chief, said the article was based on a story that had already appeared in the pro-Funcinpec Voice of Khmer Youth newspaper. “We couldn’t find anyone to confirm it so we wrote an analysis story,” he said.