Prince Norodom Ranariddh will form a new political party following his shock ousting as president of Funcinpec, the royalist party he had led since 1992, the prince’s public affairs adviser Ok Socheat said on Thursday.
The prince will also file a complaint with the Ministry of Interior, stating that his removal was illegal and calling for the ministry to revoke the new Funcinpec president’s appointment.
On Wednesday morning, Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay held a hastily convened party congress and later announced that a decision had been reached to “elevate” Prince Ranariddh to “historical president.” Cambodia’s Ambassador to Germany Keo Puth Rasmey was then appointed as Funcinpec president.
While Article 14 of Funcinpec’s internal rules states that only the president can convene the congress, “Nhiek Bun Chhay opened the congress by himself,” Ok Socheat said by telephone.
When the Interior Ministry does not annul the presidency decision, Prince Ranariddh will file a lawsuit against Nhiek Bun Chhay over his role in the affair, Ok Socheat added.
The lawsuit against Nhiek Bun Chhay will be a “test for the justice system of Cambodia,” he added.
Also next week, the prince will submit his application to form the “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh Party,” as a precautionary move in case he loses his lawsuit against Nhiek Bun Chhay, Ok Socheat said.
CPP Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he welcomed the prince’s plan to launch a new party, but warned that Funcinpec officials who join the new party will be fired from the government.
“Any lawmakers and government officials who join the new party will lose their position,” he said, adding that only CPP and Funcinpec officials can hold positions in the coalition government.
Prince Ranariddh, who is in France, announced his decision to form a new party in a radio interview on Wednesday evening. He also said that he had been planning his new party since March because “Funcinpec is not an independent party.”
The prince added that he will not be accepting the title of “historical president” of Funcinpec because it would add legitimacy to the unlawful congress that ousted him.
“I cannot accept it because the congress was illegal,” he told Voice of America, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen “ordered” the congress to replace him.
“The Prince Norodom Ranariddh Party will become an opposition party because Samdech Hun Sen had chosen his partners: Sam Rainsy and Nhiek Bun Chhay,” Prince Ranariddh added.
Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment
Sam Rainsy called the prince’s assertion that he was collaborating with Hun Sen, “outrageous.”
Khieu Kanharith also denied that Hun Sen was pulling strings behind the scenes and had instigated the congress.
“The CPP never bothers with the Funcinpec party,” he said.
Nouv Sovathero, Funcinpec’s newly appointed spokesman and secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, said he did not believe that the prince would establish a new party. He also claimed that the prince had misunderstood what the congress had achieved.
“[Prince Ranariddh] didn’t receive clear information,” he said. “We have promoted him to historical president.”
Funcinpec will be sending documents to help the prince understand the situation, said Nouv Sovathero, adding that he felt sure that when the prince receives them he will stop talking about forming a new party.
Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, said the prince could form his own party, but she warned that with Funcinpec and Prince Sisowath Thomico’s new Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party, Cambodia will have three royalist parties.
“The royalists will be divided,” she said. “Their voices will be divided.”