A spokesman for deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Monday called for unity among opposition parties, saying that bickering would only weaken their chances in upcoming elections.
However, Ly Thuch, chief of Cabinet for the prince, took his own digs at at least one other opposition figure even as he called for unity.
The statement came after Sam Rainsy and other opposition figures sharply criticized Prince Ranariddh for making decisions affecting the opposition National United Front without consulting his political allies.
Ly Thuch took issue Monday with that assessment of the prince, the president of Funcinpec. “The return of the prince to Cambodia after a long exile was very positive for Cambodia and very warmly welcomed by the people,” he said. “He is the only leader that people trust to bring peace and unity to Cambodia.”
“I think the leaders of the opposition in Cambodia should be united and work for the country,” he added. “The way Sam Rainsy criticized him in the press is not really ethical and professional.”
He stopped short, however, of asking for an apology.
Sam Rainsy on Sunday called the prince’s NUF leadership “weak and incompetent” and pronounced the first week of his permanent return to Cambodia “a disaster for the democratic opposition.”
Sam Rainsy and other NUF politicians had objected to the prince’s unilateral decision to end a joint Funcinpec-BLDP boycott of the National Assembly after Second Prime Minister Hun Sen supported moving the vote-counting in upcoming elections from the village to the commune level.
The leaders of the boycott—which began while Prince Ranariddh was out of the country—had been holding out for counting at the provincial level, as well as opposition representation on the as-yet-unconvened Constitutional Council.
Ly Thuch insisted Monday that the prince’s deal with Hun Sen was a good one. And he said Sam Rainsy, who has himself been accused of a dictatorial style, was in no position to question the leadership of Prince Ranariddh.
Sam Rainsy was in Stung Treng province on Monday and could not be reached for comment. But he said Sunday he still considers the prince his political ally in the upcoming election.
“I don’t want to make that kind of gift to Hun Sen, to break up the NUF. I will do my best to preserve the front,” he said.
Ly Thuch suggested the Sam Rainsy Party might be trying to draw supporters away from Funcinpec.