A faction within Funcinpec has expressed its support for forming a two-party government with the CPP, royalist party officials said on Monday, leaving the party divided over the future of its alliance with the Sam Rainsy Party.
“A number of Funcinpec members want two parties after the CPP said it needs only two in the coalition government,” said Lay Virak, a Funcinpec steering committee member and governor of Oddar Meanchey province.
Ok Socheat, a deputy secretary-general to the party, agreed.
“Some [Funcinpec members] want two parties” in the government, he said.
Though both officials said they themselves remain supportive of a tripartite government, those urging for a two-party government with the CPP are exerting their pressure, creating a split in the party, they said.
“They have different ideas on government creation,” Ok Socheat said. “Lawmakers are working on it to find a way not to have a dispute with the Sam Rainsy Party.”
The officials’ acknowledgment of a split within Funcinpec comes after months of denials from top party members, who said the royalists were united in their demands for a coalition government of all three main parties.
A letter seen last week, signed by four Funcinpec officials and addressed to party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said they were in favor of a two-party government.
“We would like to ask Prince Ranariddh for consideration on the two-party coalition government,” it said. The letter was signed by Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal, both deputy secretary-generals to the party, Por Bun Sroeu, the secretary of state for the defense ministry, and Lay Virak.
Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal both denied signing the letter on Monday, though neither would confirm whether the document was fake.
Asked whether he supported a two-party coalition, Nhiek Bun Chhay said: “I have no right to make that decision. Only Prince Ranariddh does.”
Lay Virak also denied signing the letter. Por Bun Sroeu could not be reached for comment.
Sam Rainsy Party’s Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said he did not believe Funcinpec would weaken its commitment to the Alliance of Democrats.
He added that those within Funcinpec who wanted a two-party government were among the minority.
“Just a few people are trying to instigate [a split] through the press, but Prince Ranariddh’s stance is very firm,” he said on Sunday. “They are trying to make Prince Ranariddh change his stance.”
But another Funcinpec military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the royalist party was facing a real division.
“We have different ideas for government creation. We asked to send them to Prince Ranariddh to make a decision,” the official said Sunday.
Prince Ranariddh, who left for Europe last month, is expected to return to Phnom Penh on Saturday, his party’s spokesman Kassie Neou said on Tuesday. Party officials initially said he would be back today.
Before his departure, Prince Ranariddh had said he would meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his return. Alliance officials said the meeting would not include opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Many royalists say their party’s next move will be determined by their president.
“Prince Ranariddh is to make a decision and everyone will follow him,” Ok Socheat said.