Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the beleaguered royalist party, has been assured by Prime Minister Hun Sen that his recent verbal onslaughts against unnamed Funcinpec officials and what he described as their scheming mistresses was not a personal attack, a government official said Sunday.
Speaking by telephone with Prince Ranariddh, who is in France, Hun Sen said that he was angered by people who had accused his wife, Bun Rany, of being a “troublemaker” and of stirring up the mistress issue, CPP spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.
The prime minister also asked the prince to silence those in the royalist party who have accused Funcinpec’s Secretary-General, Nhiek Bun Chhay, of selling out to the CPP, Khieu Kanharith said.
“Hun Sen clarified that his earlier statement on the ‘evil foxes’ [the name the prime minister used to describe the mistresses of Funcinpec officials] was not aimed at attacking an individual, but was used in general terms,” Khieu Kanharith said by telephone.
Khieu Kanharith also said that the government will continue to remove officials who are incompetent and that the dismissals will not be confined solely to the royalist party, but will also apply to CPP members.
He added that he had received information from a foreign ambassador that Prince Ranariddh also agreed with Hun Sen’s removal of Funcinpec officials.
“The government must increase its efficiency,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara, an outspoken and lone royalist critic of the CPP’s firing of Funcinpec officials—which included the sacking of her brother Prince Norodom Sirivudh—said that her party was not informed of the telephone conversation between the prince and the premier.
Princess Vacheara said she doubted the outcome of the telephone conversation would be positive for Funcinpec.
In less than a month, Prince Ranariddh stepped down as National Assembly president; Funcinpec’s Kim San was fired as Assembly secretary-general; Nhiek Bun Chhay was sacked as co-minister of defense; Prince Sirivudh was sacked as co-minister of interior and lost his deputy prime minister post; three Funcinpec provincial governors and the deputy governor of Phnom Penh were fired; and the party lost its Senate second deputy president’s post.
Though more removals are expected, several royalist party members remained optimistic about the future on Sunday.
“Their conversation will ensure political stability,” Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San said of the prince’s discussion with Hun Sen. “I am happy that both sides reached out to each other,” he said.
On Saturday, Nhiek Bun Chhay convened a meeting to reassure senior and provincial party members that Funcinpec was not fractured. On Thursday, Princess Vacheara claimed that the party had been hijacked by republicans bent on selling out their royal family colleagues. The princess said it was time for Funcinpec to change its name.
“The meeting was to explain to party supporters that there is no internal party split and that Prince Norodom Ranariddh is still leader,” Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan said Sunday.
Khieu Kanharith also said on Sunday that nothing has changed in the relationship between Funcinpec and the CPP. However, not everyone agreed.
“According to the agreement of the two parties, it is very unjust for Funcinpec,” said Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections.
“There are incapable and corrupt government officials in both the CPP and Funcinpec but the government has only removed Funcinpec officials,” he said, adding that he expected the trend to continue.
In a message written at his North Korean residence on Saturday and posted to his Web site, retired King Norodom Sihanouk commented on Funcinpec’s internal turmoil by stating, “I have decided, once and for all, not to meddle in Cambodian and others’ political affairs. As for the Funcinpec, for numerous years now, it has not been mine. I am given the title—for which I feel greatly honored—of Father of the Nation and of National Unity.” In order to keep on deserving this title, he wrote, “I must and shall remain above political factions and parties.”
In response to his official biographer Julio Jeldres, who said in an e-mail last week that he was not sure whether the retired King was aware of developments affecting Funcinpec, Norodom Sihanouk said that he keeps fully abreast of events taking place in Cambodia.