After defecting from Funcinpec more than a decade ago, Prince Norodom Chakrapong on Sunday said he will rejoin the royalist party, bringing thousands of his supporters with him.
Speaking in an interview broadcast on Radio Free Asia, Prince Chakrapong said his party, the Norodom Chakrapong Proloeung Khmer Party, will merge with Funcinpec later this month.
“I have met with [Funcinpec Secretary-General] Prince Norodom Sirivudh and agreed to join with Funcinpec,” he said.
Prince Chakrapong, son of King Norodom Sihanouk, said he left Funcinpec in 1991 because it did not comply with then-Prince Sihanouk’s ideology. He joined the CPP but was expelled after he was accused of leading a failed coup attempt in 1994, which he denied. He fled the country that same year and returned to Cambodia in 1999 after receiving amnesty from the King in 1998.
He tried to rejoin Funcinpec but was rebuffed and created his self-named party in 2002.
Prince Chakrapong told RFA on Sunday he decided to return to Funcinpec because he now agrees with Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s leadership, and supports the Alliance of Democrats.
“Now Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec turn to walk on a good road,” he said. “I think the [Alliance’s] stance is correct. I hope the stand will last forever.” He said he did not know if his party would change its name, nor his new position within Funcinpec.
Peou Sithik, secretary-general for the Norodom Chakrapong Proloeung Khmer Party, said his party has more than 1 million members who will now join Funcinpec. He said his party failed to secure a National Assembly seat in the July 27 general election due to voting irregularities.
Prince Sirivudh on Sunday applauded the move. “I am very happy the royal family will join together,” he said.
He added Prince Chakrapong will meet with Prince Ranariddh when the Funcinpec president returns to Phnom Penh from Europe on Wednesday. Prince Chakrapong strongly criticized his half-brother in the run-up to last year’s elections.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy also welcomed Prince Chakrapong’s decision in light of his own party’s plans to merge with Funcinpec, adding it would help ensure the Alliance’s success in the 2008 election.
Sam Rainsy said he would share the opposition’s allocation of government positions with Prince Chakrapong’s members if a new three-party government is formed. He added he had no problems with Prince Chakrapong’s previous membership in the CPP.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said he was “happy to see the party disappear.”