Thomico Joins Norodom Ranariddh Party, Urges Royalist Alliance

Prince Sisowath Thomico formally joined the Norodom Rana­riddh Party on Sunday, urging the SRP and Kem Sokha’s Hu­man Rights Party to join a royalist-orientated political alliance to compete against the CPP in the 2008 national election.

More than 200 members of Prince Thomico’s Sangkum Jatini­yum Front Party raised their hands in support of a merger with the NRP during a congress at the SJF’s headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Tu­ol Kok district. Prince Thomico will serve as the NRP’s second vice president, officials said.

NRP President Prince Norodom Ranariddh applauded Prince Tho­mico’s decision in a pre-recorded speech from Kuala Lumpur that was broadcast on a large television screen during the event.

“I give thanks for the decision. The action responds to the needs of the people,” Prince Ranariddh said, adding that the merger will help Cambodia.

Prince Ranariddh then urged Funcinpec members to jump ship to the NRP.

“Democrats, those who love freedom and royalists [should] participate in a movement to stop royalist voices from splitting,” he said.

The prince also dismissed his March conviction in absentia by Phnom Penh Municipal Court to 18 months in jail over the sale of Funcinpec’s headquarters.

“I hope King Norodom Siha­moni will give me justice so I can re­turn to the country,” he said of his hopes to be granted royal amnesty.

Prince Thomico told the congress that the alliance will “build a new country” if it is elected to power.

He added he will first ask Funcin­pec to join the alliance, and will then approach the SRP and Kem So­kha’s new Human Rights Party.

Despite the merger, the SJF will remain in existence in case the government blocks the NRP from competing in the elections, Prince Thomico said.

Funcinpec spokesman Nouv So­vathero said he would welcome general discussions with the NRP, though he added that Funcinpec does not want to form an alliance with any party other than its coalition government partner the CPP.

Officials said Thursday that Funcinpec had pledged to try to se­cure political amnesty for Prince Ra­nariddh if he disbands the NRP and reassumes his position as Funcin­pec historical leader.

SRP President Sam Rainsy said he would welcome further discussions with the NRP about a political alliance. But Sam Rainsy also claimed that NRP and Funcinpec members are already defecting to his party on a daily basis.

“People at the grassroots level lost confidence in Funcinpec and they also lost confidence in Prince Norodom Ranariddh because he could not return to Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanha­rith said the CPP welcomes new parties because they encourage ruling party officials to work harder. The CPP already has its own alli­ance with more than 30 smaller po­litical parties, he added.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap al­so said he was unfazed by any possible opposition alliance.

“The CPP is the party that al­ways wins the elections,” he said, noting that the NRP did not win a single commune chief position in the April 1 commune elections.

“People trust the government’s policy, that’s why they voted for us,” Cheam Yeap said.

Com­­mittee for Free and Fair Elections,Director Koul Panha, said a royalist-orientated opposition alliance could theoretically pose a major electoral threat to the CPP. But he expressed doubt that such an alliance would have enough time to gain the mo­men­tum needed to seriously challenge the CPP in next year’s election.

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