A disgruntled former member of Prince Sisowath Thomico’s fledgling Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party has defected to form his own similarly named party, after accusing the prince of holding anti-democratic ideals.
Ban Sophal said Sunday that he founded the Sangkum Yutithor, or Society of Justice Party two weeks ago, after rapidly becoming disillusioned with the prince’s politics.
“Prince Thomico is not a demo-crat and he cannot lead the country to eliminate corruption and achieve prosperity,” he said.
He also said Prince Thomico refused to listen to him when he opposed the prince’s calls for Funcinpec to be dissolved. He added that the SJFP’s platform is undemocratic because it allows the party to potentially fire its lawmakers.
The Interior Ministry’s Department of Political Affairs has registered Ban Sophal’s party and it is now free to begin its operations, said Lay Voharith, the department’s director.
Voters will not be confused by the two similarly named parties, he said.
The Interior Ministry has refused to register Prince Thomico’s SJFP, saying it has not provided adequate information about its political platform and the location of its offices. SJFP officials counter that they have been trying to register since July, and have accused officials of political sabotage.
Prince Thomico declined comment on the new party, but said Ban Sophal did not sign the prince’s alliance with four little-known political groups in July.
Prior to joining the SJFP, Ban Sophal worked as an adviser to SRP leader Sam Rainsy, but left in 1999. Ban Sophal said he quit in protest at the party’s nepotism. But SRP Acting Secretary-General Meng Ritha said Ban Sophal was fired for disobeying the party’s internal rules and talking too much.
Meng Ritha also speculated that the new party might be a CPP ploy to divide Prince Thomico’s votes.
“This is a CPP trick to form small parties to disrupt any opposition party,” he claimed.
Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith dismissed the allegation.
“We don’t have money to buy small parties. We keep the money to strengthen our party,” he said.
This is not the first time the CPP has been accused of promoting factionalism in rival parties.
In February 1998, the Interior Ministry ordered Sam Rainsy’s then-Khmer Nation Party to change its name and logo after Kong Mony, the leader of a renegade faction of the party, attempted to register for the elections under the same name.
A similar fate befell the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party. From 1995 to 1997, the BLDP, founded by the highly respected Son Sann, a former Cambodian prime minister, split into two factions.
The breakaway faction, led by then-Information Minister Ieng Mouly, was later granted the BLDP’s name and logo in court.
The balkanized BLDP, which held 10 seats in 1993, disintegrated and won no seat in 1998.