Ranariddh Backs New Royalist Veterans’ Club

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Wednes­day threw his support behind a re­cently launched club to assist former royalist resistance supporters and their families, a move seen as ending the party’s years-long silence on the hardships faced by its former fighters.

Former military and civilian sup­porters of Funcinpec—particularly in the northwest, the scene of heavy fighting between royalist and CPP troops in 1997—have long criticized their party leadership for ignoring them since form­ing a coalition government with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP in 1998.

“This club will assist with a small amount of funds and material to [former fighters] who were not integrated into [the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces], and other members,” Prince Rana­riddh told reporters at the Nation­al Assembly.

“This club is assistance for people who need it,” the prince said, adding that he gave Nhiek Bun Chhay, one of the best-known former resistance commanders, permission to establish the Club of Na­­tionalist Resistance.

Several royalist party members said on Tuesday they were not in­formed of plans to launch the club, and one official also claimed that Prince Ranariddh was not asked for his explicit permission.

In a solid show of support for his former commander, the prince said Nhiek Bun Chhay was the party’s top election candidate for Battambang province.

Nhiek Bun Chhay said on Wednes­day the club will work to strengthen the floundering royalist party’s support base.

“We had this idea for a long time but we needed the time to do it,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said by telephone from Battambang prov­ince where he is visiting areas of his supporters.

Nhiek Bun Chhay also said that Prince Ranariddh had given him verbal permission to launch the club.

Other senior-ranking Funcin­pec members were not informed because the club was mainly for grassroots supporters, he said.

A senior Interior Ministry official said on Wednesday the club should register with the ministry and a close watch would be kept on it to ensure it engages only in social activities.

“I am not worried yet by the club,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

(Additional re­porting Kevin Doyle)

 

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