Funcinpec will no longer be the silent partner in the government coalition, party President Prince Ranariddh claimed Thursday, saying the royalists will speak up and criticize the CPP if necessary.
He also said the internal party dispute over co-Minister of Interior You Hockry will be resolved within a week, but would not reveal what the solution will be.
The prince’s one-and-a-half-hour speech at his party’s all-day congress represented a departure from the tone he used before the Feb 3 commune elections.
Before the elections, the prince told a group of party workers the monarchy was the party’s only platform. All they had to do was capitalize on the popularity of King Norodom Sihanouk, the prince’s father, and they would be sure to win, Prince Ranariddh said.
But after Funcinpec’s poor performance at the polls, the prince has changed his opinion.
“We dared not speak out—that is why people did not vote for us,” he said. “In the National Assembly, Funcinpec members should speak about whatever they think is not right in the government.
“We can’t speak out like members of the Sam Rainsy Party, who criticize everything. But as a coalition partner, we can speak against things we think are not in the common interest.”
Prince Ranariddh’s new message is populist, even crusading. He called on the “poor people and motodops” not to lose faith in him and defect to the Sam Rainsy Party.
“I never forgot about you,” he said. “I will never forget you.” He spoke of a group of motorcycle taxi drivers who protected him from government activists who tried to stone him when he returned from exile in 1998.
He blamed this incident on “the highest leader of the municipality,” an apparent reference to Phnom Penh governor Chea Sophara, a CPP member.
He railed against the “violence, intimidation and bribery” that he said marred the pre-election period. The prince seldom complained about any of these problems before the balloting.
On Thursday, the prince said it was finally time to take credit for all of Funcinpec’s achievements. “The CPP has taken credit for all of the achievements of the first term of government, when I was the first prime minister,” the prince complained.
He said the Japanese-funded bridge across the Mekong in Kompong Cham province was a product of his administration, but at the opening ceremony, Hun Sen “said all of this was because of him.”
The prince also credited Funcinpec with attracting numerous investors to Cambodia and developing the airport.
“Under my administration, I brought development, industry, agricultural production. Everything improved compared to the previous regime,” he said.
Despite his criticisms of the CPP, the prince said it was important for the peace and stability of the nation to preserve the coalition government. He said King Sihanouk personally advised him not to abandon the national reconciliation represented by the coalition.
The prince did not mention his party’s recent infighting in his speech, and skirted the issue in response to questions from journalists afterwards.
Party members across the country, led by RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Khan Savoeun, want You Hockry ousted for nepotism and corruption.
The issue is intertwined with Tuesday’s revelation that many Funcinpec officials, including Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh, are on a government list of suspected members of the anti-government Cambodian Freedom Fighters.
Prince Ranariddh said he is “not happy” with the fact that You Hockry apparently had the list for months but did not turn it over to party leadership.
Asked whether You Hockry would be fired for this, the prince responded: “This is a serious mistake, I think, because it affects the leaders of the party. Also on the list are some of my bodyguards, with my residence listed as their address. We cannot ignore this.”
Khan Savoeun said the prince had offered his anti-You Hockry faction a solution and they had accepted it. He would not say what the solution was.
You Hockry would not comment on the prince’s remarks about him.