Prince Norodom Ranariddh launched his Norodom Ranariddh Party on Thursday by taking the ultra-nationalist Khmer Front Party and renaming the fringe party after himself.
Prince Ranariddh announced the launch following an extraordinary congress of the KFP, attended by some 200 party members and a handful of recently removed Funcinpec government officials.
“We declared clearly that the extraordinary congress changed the name of the [Khmer Front Party] into the Norodom Ranariddh Party, with Norodom Ranariddh as president,” the prince told reporters outside the former KFP’s offices in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district.
The announcement “drew big appreciation from congress participants,” the prince added. “If I was not optimistic, I would not have done this.”
The Norodom Ranariddh Party’s establishment has enabled the prince to break his deadlock with the Interior Ministry, which had refused to register the party, said the prince’s public affairs adviser Ok Socheat.
The ministry had said it was unable to register the NRP as a legal political entity because Prince Ranariddh had failed to sign the official application forms. Ousted Funcinpec officials close to Prince Ranariddh had claimed the ministry’s decision was politically motivated.
“We found a good way out enabling the prince to get his party established. We plan to work with Prince Sisowath Thomico on major issues,” Ok Socheat said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the NRP’s establishment was not illegal. But he chided Prince Ranariddh for choosing to name the party after himself.
“It is ridiculous that Prince Ranariddh criticized Sam Rainsy for naming his party after himself, but now the prince himself does the same. He stepped on his [own] tail,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said it is not against the spirit of the law on political parties for Prince Ranariddh to form his party from another one.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said it was up to the ministry to decide whether the new party can operate.
“For the Funcinpec party, we have no fear. He is a Khmer citizen so he can choose any party,” he said. “Funcinpec still respects him as our historic president and we have no plan to remove him from the party.”
Prince Ranariddh also told reporters on Thursday that he will no longer address his estranged wife Princess Marie as Marie Ranariddh.
Princess Marie is currently a senior minister in Funcinpec.
“I would like to tell you that I no longer call Marie ‘Ranariddh.’ She can use Norodom. I don’t permit her to use [the name Ranariddh] because she has gone to, frankly speaking, she has gone to the traitors’ group. I am finished with her,” Prince Ranariddh said.
Princess Marie could not be reached for comment Thursday. However, one senior Funcinpec official said on Wednesday that it was in fact Prince Ranariddh who had betrayed those closest to him, including his wife and family and ultimately the royalist party.