Residents of Phnom Penh interviewed on Sunday said that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent barrage of criticism against Funcinpec has had a limited impact on their perceptions of the party, in which several said they had already lost faith anyway.
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh left the country last week, following weeks of criticism of his party by Hun Sen on issues including nepotism, extra-marital affairs, incompetence and lavish spending by the National Olympic Committee, which Prince Ranariddh heads.
National Institute of Business student Sou Vibol said that although people had hopes for Funcinpec in the past, supporters had been repeatedly disappointed by its failure to serve its constituents.
He added that while Funcinpec might survive if it reforms, a government without Funcinpec would be virtually identical to the current coalition anyway. “Being aligned with the government, Funcinpec should be stronger than this,” he said. “[Prince Ranariddh] was president of the National Assembly. He should have used his power.”
Like several others, he speculated that Prince Ranariddh’s perceived weaknesses could now rub off on his relatives. “It makes a bad image for the royal family,” he said.
Tuk-tuk driver San Sokhorn said supporters forgave Funcinpec its inability to reform during the 1990s because of streetfighting between the two parties, but the failure to keep promises such as protecting national borders and controlling illegal immigration have discredited the royalist party. “Funcinpec might be finished, because they have been in the government for three mandates,” he said. “Funcinpec should tell the people why it cannot achieve its promises, not just keep silent.”
He added that Prince Ranariddh previously won popularity on the coattails of his father, retired King Norodom Sihanouk, but that the association has waned.
Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San said that relations between his party and the CPP have faltered because of the return last month of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who he described as a “friend [who] would push your cyclo in front of a truck.”
Last week, Sam Rainsy said Funcinpec’s mentality was out of date and that reform was against its very nature.
Although Hun Sen has chastised royalist officials over alleged extra-marital affairs, motorbike-taxi driver Leang Nang said the CPP is in no position to assume the moral high ground. “They are the same—corrupt with mistresses,” he said. “The only difference is that one side has the mistresses hidden, while the other side shows their face.”
Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith declined comment on allegations that the CPP is guilty of the same vices that Funcinpec has been accused of. “In the election, the people will decide,” he said.