Sirivudh Will Regain F’pec Post Thursday

Prince Norodom Sirivudh will be appointed as secretary-general of Funcinpec in a ceremony Thurs­­day, which also marks the fourth anniversary of the factional fighting that broke out between royalist and CPP forces.

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh made the announcement at the National Assembly Tuesday and said it’s only a coincidence that the ap­pointment ceremony is taking place on the anniversary date of the July 1997 fighting.

“Reappointing Prince Sirivudh will help strengthen our party because he will be a full-time leader and he can unify the party,” said Prince Ranariddh, who had announced in March that Prince Sirivudh would return to politics.

Prince Ranariddh said the July 5 date was chosen because Prince Sirivudh is going to the US the next day. Prince Ranariddh also said the appointment ceremony for Prince Sirivudh is not meant to be an event remembering the factional fighting.

“There is no ceremony for any anniversary,” Prince Ranariddh said. “As I was told, [former Fun­cinpec general] Nhiek Bun Chhay only wanted to hold a ceremony to welcome the reappointment of Prince Sirivudh.”

Prince Sirivudh will replace Tol Lah, who is also deputy premier and Minister of Education. A letter has been sent to Funcinpec members in the provinces to join the Thursday ceremony at party headquarters. Prince Ranariddh said at the party’s congress in March that the party needed a leader who could work full time for the party.

The appointment of Prince Siri­vudh marks a turn in fortune for the man convicted of plotting to assassinate then-second prime minister Hun Sen in 1996. He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison after a local newspaper printed quotes of a plot to kill Hun Sen, attributed to Prince Sirivudh.

He was forced into exile for three years and returned to Cam­bo­­dia in January 1999 after being granted amnesty by King Noro­dom Sihanouk in a coalition government deal. He chairs the Cam­bodian Institute for Co­oper­ation and Peace and is a counselor to King Sihanouk, his half-brother.

One Funcinpec member said al­though Prince Sirivudh agreed to stay out of politics when he re­turned from exile, the King and Hun Sen recently agreed to allow the prince to be­come an ac­tive Funcinpec member.

Prince Sirivudh was one of the most popular and outspoken mem­bers of the party. In 1994, he resigned as foreign minister to protest the ouster of Sam Rainsy, who was a Funcinpec finance minister and formed his own party after leaving Funcinpec.

Sam Rainsy said he welcomes the news of Prince Sirivudh’s return to Funcinpec leadership, and added that under his leadership, “Funcinpec can be a loyal partner to the Sam Rainsy Party.”

“I wish that he will be able to steer Funcinpec out of decline,” Sam Rainsy said. “Apart from the King, who is above politics, Siri­vudh is the most qualified royal to play a determining role in helping Cambodia out of the mess she is in now.”

Observers and party mem­bers have said the party has be­come complacent since the fight­­ing, when battles broke out be­­­tween forces loyal to then-first prime minister Prince Ranariddh and those loyal to then-second prime minister Hun Sen on July 5, 1997.

The fighting destroyed Funcin­pec, which only had three months to regroup for the 1998 elections. Funcinpec contested the election results, which showed the CPP winning, but later agreed to a power sharing deal that resulted in the second coalition government.

Since then, Funcinpec has been seen as the junior partner in the coalition and many hope Prince Sirivudh’s leadership will rejuvenate the royalists.

“We learned a lot from the [July] event and big tragedies such as the Lon Nol coup, war and foreign invasion,” Prince Rana­riddh said. “Funcinpec and I also suffered the most. This is hard to forget, but we have to for the betterment of our nation. We need peace and political stability.”

(Addi­tional reporting by Gina Chon)


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