Rumor of Lost Royalty Draws Voters to Party

samraong tong district, Kom­pong Speu province – In this southern province, a small, burgeoning myth is apparently building around a small, burgeoning party.

Officials from the Indra Buddra City Party, which is headquartered in Kompong Speu, are claiming that the party has gained some 2 million followers across the country since it emerged about six months ago. And some say it could even win a few seats in the province during the July 27 general elections.

The main focus of the party’s campaign is to promote Buddhist teachings. But for some of its followers, the biggest draw is the myth behind its 49-year-old president, Narak Ratanak Voathanor

—who some claim is the long-lost son of King Norodom Sihanouk.

Prince Norodom Naradipo, who the King favored to become heir to the throne, was reportedly killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, but his body was never found. The emergence of Narak Ratanak Voathanor has sparked the belief that the prince survived and has now returned.

Prince Naradipo’s brother, and leader of Funcinpec, Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh, gave a scathing speech about the Indra Buddra City Party last month, calling its president a fraud.

“[The party] says he is Prince Naradipo. Please, people, do not believe it. I know my young brother very well,” Prince Rana­riddh said at a rally in Battam­bang province, broadcast on Ta Phrom Radio, June 30. “This is a scam.”

The party’s officials denied that they ever made such claims about their president’s past.

When asked how the rumors started, party deputy Luy Chamtal said, “People believe that, but I don’t know why.”

Luy Chamtal said Narak Rata­nak Voathanor was a monk for nearly 20 years before entering politics. But details about his life are unclear.

Except for appearing at the occasional campaign event, the party president remains elusive.

“Based on the concept of Buddhism, he cannot speak to the press,” Luy Chamtal said.

At one of the party’s offices in  Samraong Tong, several large pictures of Narak Ratanak Voathanor adorn the walls. The most prominent one, showing his wide, square face, is hung be­tween larger photos of the King and Queen Noro­dom Monineath over an altar of incense.

Other photos displayed outside the office show Narak Ratanak Voathanor at a campaign rally in Phnom Penh earlier this week, riding in his Land Rover as throngs of people follow.

Tuoch Khoeut, a member of the party’s central committee, attributes the party’s rising popularity to a growing interest in restoring Buddhist values.

“Khmer morality is declining, so the party is trying to improve it. That is why people support us,” Tuoch Khoeut said.

He said voters want a new government that does not condone killing and stealing after having witnessed the violence that followed the 1998 general elections.

He added that the party will use Buddhist teachings to fight corruption and deforestation and to improve the standard of living in the country.

Leaders from all 23 parties running in the general election are expected to meet King Sihanouk on July 24. But, Luy Chamtal said Narak Ratanak Voathanor will not attend, adding to his mysterious persona.

“I will go instead,” Luy Chamtal said.

(Addi­tional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)

 

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