Royalists Question Wisdom of Ranariddh’s Planned Return

Senior leaders of Funcinpec, the party that Prince Norodom Ranariddh led to victory in the U.N.-sponsored election of 1993, have questioned the wisdom of the prince’s decision to return to the political realm by creating a new political party.

Prince Ranariddh, who was pushed out of the presidency of Funcinpec in 2006 before creating the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which later collapsed back into Funcinpec, on Sunday announced the creation of the Community of Royalist People Party (CRPP).

The prince said in a radio interview this week that he was creating the party to help unite the country after the “problems” arising from last year’s national election, and to promote the royalist politics of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

“I want to mobilize nationalism and Sihanoukism to form my party and restore the royal family,” the Prince said.

Prince Sisowath Sirirath, who served as a co-minister of defense in Prince Ranariddh’s coalition government in the 1990s, said Prince Ranariddh’s quest for political power could be hampered by perceptions that he previously governed carelessly.

“A leader needs to gain love and adulation from the people, and so he must not flip-flop,” he said, also suggesting that Prince Ranariddh’s new bid for office may lack an organic base.

Keo Puth Rasmey, who replaced Prince Ranariddh as Funcinpec’s president in 2006 and is the husband of Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, who led the party in last year’s election, said the party would be watching the Prince’s new royalist party.

“Prince Ranariddh has come and go so many times,” Mr. Puth Rasmey said. “Frankly, he is hard to predict, so I want to wait six months or a year to see how serious Prince Ranariddh is, or whether he has just come to make some noise.”

“We will see if he is serious [enough] to lead Funcinpec.”

Nhek Bun Chhay, who as a deputy prime minister in the current government is the last serving Funcinpec member to hold public office, said the Prince’s decision to create a new party belied his stated intention to help unite the country.

“The Prince himself is in the royal family, in which he is the brother and Princess Arunrasmy is the sister,” General Bun Chhay said. “Can they unite? And if not, how can he unite others?”

Prince Ranariddh has not responded to requests for comment on his decision to create a new royalist party.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a founding member of Funcinpec who defected to the opposition CNRP last year, said that the time for royalist politics in Cambodia had come and passed.

“There’s no place for royalist politics in Cambodia anymore,” Prince Thomico said. “It’s a bi-polar world now in Cambodia, between the politics of the CPP and the CNRP.”

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