Some of the opposition party’s strongest supporters on Thursday expressed frustration and dismay over the possibility that the Sam Rainsy Party could choose to join a new government through Funcinpec’s “back door.”
“The [Alliance of Democrats] is finished,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, adding that it would be “very shameful” for the opposition to join a government under the terms of a deal signed by Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Under their agreement, aimed at resolving the nearly eight-month-long deadlock, Funcinpec and the CPP will tentatively form a coalition government together, and Funcinpec would be able to share some of its government positions with its Alliance partner.
Though Sam Rainsy indicated Wednesday he may be willing to accept those positions and reaffirmed that the Alliance is still strong, some say the deal is simply unacceptable.
“I think Sam Rainsy will lose popularity when he joins the government,” said Men Nath, president of the Khmer Democratic Front for Students and Intellectuals.
He added that such a scenario would put the opposition party in a precarious position, as it would not have legitimate status in the government.
Meanwhile, former Funcinpec senator Kem Sokha attacked Prince Ranariddh, accusing him of being a dishonest partner of the Alliance.
Having agreed to join two consecutive coalition governments with the CPP in 1993 and 1998, which many have argued were dysfunctional, the prince appeared to be falling into the same trap, he said.
“I learned in ’93 and ’98 he made similar deals. Now I hear the same song,” said Kem Sokha, now the director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, during an interview broadcast on Beehive Radio FM 105 on Wednesday.
“If a leader really protects his will, he should stick to his original stance…in resolving the problem,” he said.
Kem Sokha said Monday’s agreement would hurt both Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, battering Funcinpec’s already declining voter popularity and weakening the opposition.
“If they sell out to join the government, I predict Funcinpec will keep going down,” he said, adding: “The Sam Rainsy Party cannot work when given such a half status” in the government.
Other political analysts have offered a more restrained outlook, saying it is too soon to tell how the deadlock will unravel.
Even if Sam Rainsy does agree to accept positions within a Funcinpec-CPP government, he could continue to offer an effective opposition voice, Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said on Tuesday.
Rong Chhun, however, said he was skeptical.
A statement released by Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy on Wednesday, which maintained the Alliance is still unified in protecting the country’s interests, was unconvincing, Rong Chhun said.
The statement, he said, mentioned nothing about whether the Alliance would pull out of Monday’s deal if the CPP does not agree to the Alliance’s joint platform for the next government mandate.
“So what happens when the CPP doesn’t implement the national platform?” he asked.
He added that if Sam Rainsy does join the government, its role in providing a critical voice might be taken over by the fledgling Khmer Front Party, a scenario that was also floated by some opposition allies in the aftermath of the Nov 5 meeting between King Norodom Sihanouk and top members of the three parties.
Khmer Front Party President Mau Moeung Yat said his party would be only too happy to take on such a role.
“The Khmer Front Party can be a good opposition party because its members are clean,” he said, though he acknowledged the party was still too small.
Sam Rainsy Party’s secretary general, Eng Chhay Eang, on Thursday defended his party, saying that despite the appearances of Monday’s agreement, it doesn’t veer far from the Alliance’s original goals.
“If we just look at the [agreement], we will see that Sam Rainsy joins the government through the back door of the Funcinpec party. But when we look into its content, we see the new government is a tripartite government,” he said.
He added that the issue of power sharing had not yet been discussed.
But, “We will never lose the party’s interest,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)