Two senior US senators have threatened to pull their support for Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh if he continues to push for the removal of royalist lawmaker Keo Remy, party officials said this week.
“Two US senators, both friends of [Funcinpec], phoned me and said they would react strongly to Keo Remy. They warned that the prince faces losing friends in the US Senate,” said Nhiek Bun Chhay, the former resistance commander who has emerged as the royalist’s strongest voice in the 2003 general election run-up.
While Nhiek Bun Chhay refused to name the US lawmakers, another Funcinpec official identified them as Jesse Helms and John McCain—both Republicans with significant influence in the US legislature. He said he told Prince Sirivudh about the senator’s message Thursday. The prince has not reacted yet, Nhiek Bun Chhay said.
In a Nov 18 letter, Prince Sirivudh demanded that Keo Remy resign from Funcinpec and said he would ask party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh to fire the lawmaker, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the party’s leadership.
Prince Ranariddh previously said Keo Remy would not be tossed from the party. He said this week he was unaware of the letter and refused to comment on Keo Remy.
Keo Remy maintains he has not slighted the party and said he would not resign. “My criticism of both government and sometimes the party leadership helped improve the image of the party among the people before the election,” Keo Remy said.
Since its dismal showing in February’s commune elections, Funcinpec has been racked by infighting and disillusionment among its rank and file members. The party endured a bitter fight to oust co-Minister of Interior You Hockry, Funcinpec’s senior most government official, and Prince Ranariddh has come under repeatedly attacks for being too close to the ruling CPP.
But after months of stagnation, Funcinpec officials say on certain issues they are ready stand up to their senior coalition partner as next year’s election approaches.