In his first formal public appearance with his new party Funcinpec, Prince Sisowath Thomico on Wednesday urged Prince Norodom Ranariddh to return to the party, warning that if he fails to do so, he risks being held responsible for destroying the royalists’ political legacy.
“The key is in Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s hand on whether he wants to unite the royalist forces. If not, he must be responsible before history and the people if the royalists fail,” Prince Thomico said at a news conference at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh.
“[Prince Ranariddh] can destroy the royalists and also he can unite them,” Prince Thomico added.
The meager showing by royalist parties in the April commune elections indicates that if they remain divided, they will vanish after the 2008 national elections, he said.
Having originally established his own Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party and then merging it with the Norodom Ranariddh Party, Prince Thomico jumped ship to Funcinpec in recent days despite his previous criticism of the party. On Wednesday, Prince Thomico said that to the best of his understanding, Funcinpec is now following in retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s footsteps.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said the Funcinpec congress that ousted Prince Ranariddh from the party’s presidency in October was responsible for undermining royalist politics, not Prince Ranariddh. “Prince Thomico used to attack Funcinpec about [Prince Ranariddh’s ouster],” Muth Channtha said. “[Prince] Thomico has no clear conscience,” he claimed.
Mar Sophal, monitoring chief for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said internal divisions in the NRP are prompting many officials to defect to Funcinpec, and that Prince Ranariddh’s return to the party would be a smart move. “Most of the royal family members are with Funcinpec,” he added. “If [Prince Ranariddh] returns to Funcinpec, the royalist forces will be strong.”