Four days after Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he favored welcoming back party defectors, the main breakaway group on Thursday praised the prince and suggested it wanted a meeting.
“We commend fully the efforts of the [Prince]…and humbly await an expeditious meeting to discuss the process of reunification,” the Reastr Niyum Party said in a press communique. “Our position is and remains that reunification can only strengthen Funcinpec.”
Though Prince Ranariddh expressed support for absorbing the Reastr Niyum members, the move was postponed this week by the party steering committee.
“[The] return of these personalities has been postponed, according to the decision by the steering committee, against my will,” the Prince said Monday, adding he had the power to overrule the committee but in this case would respect its wishes.
Key members of Reastr Niyum include former first prime minister and foreign minister Ung Huot, former agriculture minister Tao Seng Huor, ex-industry minister Pou Sothirak, and Council of Ministers Secretary General Nady Tan.
They earned the wrath of many Funcinpec stalwarts by deserting the prince in July 1997 and remaining in Phnom Penh following the fighting. They sided with the CPP, whose forces killed scores of Funcinpec police and military personnel, and Ung Huot took over Prince Ranariddh’s leading Funcinpec roles.
But according to the Reastr Niyum statement, the decision to split from Funcinpec was forced on them by circumstance.
“Among Reastr Niyum leaders there is a deep sadness that unfortunate events in the past have been so misinterpreted that true dialogue has been virtually impossible. If we do not treat one another fairly, with dignity and compassion, we cannot overcome this issue.”