Prince Looks To Reassure Funcinpec

While Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh tried Wednesday to reassure hundreds of concerned members about ongoing controversies within the party, officials said today’s party congress would consider aggressive methods—including restructuring and encouraging officials to speak out against the ruling CPP—to bolster the flagging royalists.

Funcinpec, the junior partner in the national coalition government, has been disturbed by its disappointing performance in the Feb 3 commune elections, by its increasingly public internal divisions and by Tuesday’s revelation that party officials, including Secretary-General Prince Norodom Siri­vudh, are on a list of alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters rebel group.

More than 300 Funcinpec po­lice and military officers who met with Prince Ranariddh for about two hours Wednesday morning wanted assurances that they would not be accused of CFF membership. They also said they wanted to see co-Minister of Interior You Hockry fired for corruption and nepotism.

Prince Ranariddh said of the party infighting that he would “solve this problem” through compromise, military officials who attended the meeting reported.

The prince has repeatedly insisted he will mediate the dispute over You Hockry, even as Funcinpec members across the country repeatedly insist You Hockry be ousted.

One RCAF general, who asked to remain anonymous, said he learned recently that You Hockry has had the list of CFF suspects since it was first seized by police, but never reported it to Prince Ranariddh. The minister only gave the list to the prince this week, after the news broke that Prince Sirivudh was on it.

You Hockry is planning to attend today’s conference, his adviser Dak Savy said.

The prince also told Wednesday’s meeting that he would work to ensure that Funcinpec members are taken off the CFF list.

According to the Associated Press, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he does not suspect Funcinpec of being linked to the CFF. But he did not offer to remove the party’s members from the list.

“I think nothing further will happen on this issue,” Hun Sen said.

Prince Ranariddh told a group of lawmakers and officials Wednesday that he will talk to Hun Sen and try to obtain a written agreement that Funcinpec members will be removed from government lists of CFF suspects, according to senior Funcinpec official Khek Vandy.

The squabble over You Hockry and the alarm over the CFF list will not even be on the agenda at today’s party congress, Khek Vandy said.

“This congress will show the world that [Funcinpec is] not in trouble,” he said. “Despite the problems that remain unsolved, we are still united.”

According to Khek Vandy, the congress will instead look to examine and reconceive Funcinpec’s uneasy relationship with the CPP.

“Funcinpec joined the coalition to give Cambodia peace and stability, but paid a high price—the CPP took advantage of Funcinpec and took all the power for itself,” Khek Vandy said.

In the past, Funcinpec has stood passively by while the CPP took credit for all the achievements of the joint government, Khek Ravy said. “These achievements, it was not only the CPP that made them happen. Funcinpec also contributed,” he said.

“But as coalition partner, Funcinpec [officials] so far cannot speak out, even if they disagree with something the CPP did. We want to change this stance.”

From now on, Funcinpec members will be encouraged to speak out. “We will still continue to cooperate with the CPP, but we want to use our right to say what we think is right or wrong,” Khek Ravy said.

Several Funcinpec officials said they hoped to imitate the style of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who they believe attracts voters with his outspoken attitude.

But the officials insisted Funinpec would not become antagonistic to the CPP. “The congress will reaffirm and strengthen the party’s ties with the CPP,” said co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath.

Still, there are signs of a cooling relationship. Hun Sen was invited to last year’s Funcinpec congress, gave a speech and embraced Prince Ranariddh. This year, the prime minister is not invited.

Funcinpec parliamentarian Keo Remy said the congress would also “debate the party structure” and consider such measures as changing the party hierarchy or giving some officials different positions or responsibilities.

Keo Remy said the point of the congress will be to guarantee better results for the party in the future. “We have to make a better strategy for the next election,” he said, referring to the 2003 national election.


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