Ranariddh, Sokha Differ Over Party Merger Reports

At events marking the third anniversary of King Norodom Sihanouk’s death Thursday, deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha and Prince Norodom Ranariddh provided differing opinions about reports suggesting that the CNRP and Funcinpec are considering a merger.

From Europe, opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday denied media reports that he planned to meet with Prince Ranariddh—a onetime ally he fell out with long ago—to discuss a merger, describing the possibility as a “useless consideration.”

Prince Norodom Ranariddh offers food to monks at his home in Phnom Penh on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the death of King Norodom Sihanouk in 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Prince Norodom Ranariddh offers food to monks at his home in Phnom Penh on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the death of King Norodom Sihanouk in 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Yet Prince Ranariddh, whose CPP-allied Funcinpec has seen a steady decline in popularity over the past two decades, said after a ceremony to mark his father’s death that he would be open to an alliance with Mr. Rainsy if he received an invitation to meet.

“I welcome this, but please write a letter…saying he and Kem So-   kha have the intention to visit and meet me,” the prince said at his home in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district.

“He has not said it, but the Reaksmey Kampuchea newspaper has reported on a merger, so we can consider it as a rumor,” he added. “I want to listen to him first.”

Speaking to reporters at the CNRP’s headquarters in Meanchey district, Mr. Sokha, who is leading the opposition party in Mr. Rainsy’s absence, said the CNRP seeks to be an inclusive party, but is wary of Prince Ranariddh.

“It is the CNRP’s stance that we want to gather [people] together—our first phase is to gather the democrats as one force for change and reform, and to have peace for the Cambodian people,” Mr. Sokha said.

“When we do not have national unity, we will not have stability, therefore there is no sustainable development,” he said, before explaining that the party must not join with anyone who could destroy the party from within.

“In our policy, we gather all Cambodian forces…but we cannot just collect people who ruin the interests of democracy,” Mr. Sokha said. “We have to check if there is a wood-boring beetle who will destroy the democratic forces.”

Asked for clarification about Mr. Sokha’s comments, CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said by telephone that the opposition party is open to a merger with Funcinpec—if the circumstances are right.

“The CNRP’s stance has not been set only for Funcinpec—we have a policy to unite the royalists and democrats,” he said.

“We just want to say that we keep a stance to unite, but it depends on time and circumstance,” he added. “We are studying what [Prince Ranariddh] has said.”

Prince Ranariddh and Mr. Rainsy’s opposition party joined forces for the 1998 and 2003 national elections and forced a deadlock both times as the CPP, unable to form government, ignored their demands.

Yet the prince broke the deal with Mr. Rainsy both times, accepting a slew of positions for his party in government—including his own position as National Assembly president—as part of a coalition agreement with the CPP.

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