Contrary to earlier suggestions that it might seek to reunite with Funcinpec, the Reastr Niyum party at its conference on Saturday moved to remain independent.
Despite its poor showing in the 1998 national elections, Reastr Niyum president Ung Huot said that his seatless party will stay together at least until the 2003 polls. “We have to unite and strengthen our stance. We have to continue our political lifeline independently,” he said.
According to party rules, Ung Hout stepped down Saturday for a new presidential election. Unopposed, he was re-elected.
Party officials has suggested that they might discuss reuniting with Funcinpec, despite being ousted from the royalist party after factional fighting in 1997.
Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh expelled the group after they decided to remain in Phnom Penh to work with his CPP rivals.
Ung Huot held the first prime minister position until the election, when he formed the Reastr Niyum party.
At Saturday’s conference, he told the nearly 400 gathered, including former agriculture minister Tao Seng Huor and former industry minister Pou Sothirak, that he is optimistic.
“We had everything (we needed) in the electoral campaign, but we gained no seats. We were very angry, but now the wound is healed,” he said. “I don’t care who mocks us now. We are only ashamed of ourselves.”
Party vice president Nady Tan said that even though he spent his own money on the campaign, he is not disappointed. “We lost the election happily,” he said.
The party spent more than $490,000 in contributions from members and outside donors, party officials said. They also noted that any party members who left Reastr Niyum to join Funcinpec and other parties after the 1998 national elections have been replaced.
Also troubled by its showing in the election, Funcinpec leaders said last week they are opening their doors to new members.