Senator Pledges F’pec Support

Funcinpec Senator Nhiek Bun Chhay, one of the royalist’s most popular figures, said he does not want to continue as a member of parliament after his term finishes, but denied that he would also quit Funcinpec.

“[Quitting the Senate] does not mean I am leaving Funcinpec,” the former resistance general said by telephone Monday.

He had made similar comments in a statement released Sat­urday, one day after another outspoken royalist lawmaker, Keo Remy, announced his resignation from the party.

Keo Remy’s departure from Funcinpec—which came after several clashes between the lawmaker and senior party officials, including party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh—fueled speculation that Nhiek Bun Chhay would also leave.

“I still serve Funcinpec forever,” wrote Nhiek Bun Chhay, who represents Battambang prov­ince.

Nhiek Bun Chhay still commands a loyal following in the northwest, where he led troops against the Hanoi-backed government during the 1980s.

He again returned to the region after the 1997 factional fighting and continued to battle soldiers loy­al to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP for several months until both sides forged what has proven to be a lasting, though somewhat unbalanced coalition government.

But it is questions about this coalition that drove Keo Remy away from Funcinpec, the lawmaker has suggested.

A dismal showing in Febru­ary’s commune council elections, and the internal brawls that followed have weakened Funcinpec and cast doubt on its continued role in the government after next year’s general elections.

While several other Funcinpec lawmakers say they are disillusioned with their party’s leadership, Senator Kem Sokha is the on­ly other member to quit, saying he would go work for some sort of advocacy group rather than remain in politics.

Seizing on Funcinpec’s internal troubles, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has claimed that hundreds of royalists are defecting to his ranks, though no one has done so publicly.

What would have been Sam Rainsy’s biggest pre-election coup—gaining Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara—failed to materialize after the princess denied reports that she was changing sides.


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