Ranariddh Says He Quit For the Nation Sake

One day after stepping down as president of the National Assem­bly, Prince Norodom Ranariddh told supporters on Saturday that he was setting an example by mak­ing sacrifices in the interest of the nation.

Prince Ranariddh, president of the embattled royalist party, added that his resignation on Friday was motivated by a desire to avoid a political crisis.

Critics, however, speculated that he had little choice in the matter, and may have been trying to salvage his reputation amid strong crit­icism by Prime Minister Hun Sen of Funcinpec officials and their mistresses.

“I sacrifice because I don’t want to have any political crises,” the prince told supporters inside party head­quarters in a speech broadcast on Funcinpec’s Ta Prohm ra­dio on Sunday.

There had been a plan to oust him, he said. But if this had happened, Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San would have revealed da­­maging allegations about the CPP, and royalist officials would have walked out of the government, Prince Ranariddh said.

“Then the cooperation between the two parties, which is needed to develop the country, [would] be destroyed,” he said.

“I thank [members of] civil society that said Prince Norodom Ranariddh is an example for Khmer leaders—they should follow him to dare to resign from their positions,” he added.

The prince said party stalwarts would take his side. He also said that more than one unidentified person had threatened to oust him from the National Assembly following Thursday’s vote to re­duce the amount of lawmakers needed to form a government.

The prince’s resignation came one day after Hun Sen, in a surprise move, publicly dismissed Funcinpec co-Minister of Defense Nhiek Bun Chhay and co-Min­is­ter of Interior Prince Norodom Sir­ivudh.

Prince Ranariddh, whose party and officials had been under vigorous verbal attack from Hun Sen for issues ranging from incompetence and nepotism to extramarital affairs, subsequently tended his resignation to Hun Sen and Senate President Chea Sim.

The prince emphasized on Sat­urday that his resignation was part of a long chain of sacrifices, ranging from sharing power with the CPP after Funcinpec won the 1993 election to not taking the throne after Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in 2004.

“In 1993, I made a huge sacrifice: The winner shared power,” he said. “I sacrificed once again not to take the throne [in 2004], be­cause I think that I have a duty to lead the Funcinpec Party, to protect the members. Who else can make sacrifices like me?”

But some observers said the prince was forced into his resignation after the National Assembly re­­duced the amount of lawmakers re­quired to form a government from two-thirds to 50 percent plus one. The amendment undermines the need for coalition governments, they said.

“The prince has no choice,” said opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang. “He has no more value. When he has no value, he cannot stay.”

Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Com­mittee for Free Elections in Cam­bodia, said that the prince’s resignation was likely an effort to salvage his reputation.

“It is not a good example,” Hang Puthea said. “His resignation is because of the [constitutional amendment],” and allegations about the prince’s personal life, Hang Puthea added.

But four senior Funcinpec mem­bers—including Nhiek Bun Chhay and Ministry of Interior Sec­retary of State Khann Sa­voeun—issued a petition on Sun­day thanking Prince Rana­riddh for his dedication to the people in stepping down.

“We would like to express our true sentiment to follow the Prince forever, without change or condition,” the statement read.

As part of what he called a campaign to strengthen Funcinpec, Prince Ranariddh replaced Prince Norodom Sirivudh as party secretary-general, granting the position to Prince Norodom Chakrapong, according to a statement from Prince Ranariddh on Saturday.

Government spokesman and In­formation Minister Khieu Kan­harith said the CPP would continue to cooperate with Funcinpec, adding that the prince alone had made the decision to step down.

Prince Ranariddh said he hoped to maintain the coalition with CPP for as long as possible. “We will continue to be a partner [with CPP], but a dignified partner,” he said. “I urged the members of the Funcinpec party to maintain the historical cooperation protocol.”

 

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