Prince Sisowath Thomico said Tuesday that he has asked Funcinpec, which he recently joined, to hold a congress that would reinstate Prince Norodom Ranariddh as party president and undo his ignominious October ouster.
However, if Prince Ranariddh turns down the offer, the opportunity for him to return to the party’s helm will be likely taken off the table for good, said Prince Thomico, who joined Funcinpec after defecting from his own party and a political alliance with the Norodom Ranariddh Party. “The congress can make Prince Norodom Ranariddh the [party] president,” he said. “Funcinpec is preparing for the prince to return, and the prince can decide what he wants.”
Prince Ranariddh was removed from his position in an Oct 18 Funcinpec congress hastily convened by the party’s Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay. Prince Ranariddh subsequently formed the NRP.
Funcinpec First Deputy President and Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng said Tuesday that the party will hold a congress aiming to strengthen its grassroots support. He declined to comment on whether Prince Ranariddh would be allowed to become party president again, saying only that the prince should accept the position of historical leader, an honorary title given to him after his removal as president.
Ok Socheat, an adviser to Prince Ranariddh who recently returned to Funcinpec, said that the congress would select the party president, vice presidents and secretary-general. He also said that he hoped it would reinstate Prince Ranariddh as president.
“We have stopped talking about Oct 18—we are talking about restructuring the party,” he said.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said his party has no interest in dealing with Funcinpec. “The Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec party are separated—we don’t want to talk about unification,” he said.
Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said that the Funcinpec congress will likely be the venue at which the party will invite the prince back into the fold.
“Funcinpec is using its mid-level officials to survey the prince’s mind,” Hang Puthea said of the latest offers to the prince.