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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funcinpec awaits Ranariddh

Funcinpec awaits Ranariddh

Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh is expected back in Cambodia on August

12 or 13, says his public affairs adviser, Ok Socheat. And a right royal row awaits

him.

Ranariddh resigned as President of the National Assembly and left the country in

March this year after Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP)

accused some officials in Funcinpec, the government's coalition partner, of nepotism

and extramarital affairs.

In the months since, dissension has grown within Funcinpec as Hun Sen has steadily

removed about 100 Funcinpec officials from their posts as provincial governors, deputy

governors and police officials. The deposed officials accuse Funcinpec Secretary-General

Nhiek Bun Chhay, a Deputy Prime Minister, of failing to support them.

But the CPP insists that Funcinpec officials were not doing their jobs, and were

sacked as part of the government's efforts to reform.

Socheat told the Post on August 9 that at least four senior Funcinpec officials were

suspected of disloyalty to Prince Ranariddh and plotting to break away from the party.

Socheat named the four as Lu Laysreng, Minister of the Rural Development, Sun Chanthol,

Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Veng Sereyvuth, Senior Minister and

Ly Thuch, a Funcinpec Member of Parliament. He said they had intended to hold a meeting

on August 6, but it was aborted because of a lack of support from other party members.

"I think that some of the four officials were involved in the World Bank scandal

and they should be asked to resign from the party, which would help to restore the

reputation of Funcinpec, which has adhered to its political program to fight against

corruption," Socheat said. "Now we are waiting to see when the prince returns.

Then we will examine the case."

The World Bank in June suspended funding on three projects valued at $68.4 million,

and it is seeking repayment of $7.6 million lost through corruption in 30 procurement

contracts.

Thuch, when contacted on August 9 for comment, said he was in a meeting in Malaysia.

Laysreng also said he had a meeting.

Socheat said Ranariddh recently stayed in Malaysia, and it would have been easy for

party members to meet him.

He said Ranariddh will continue to support Bun Chhay as party secretary general,

and said Funcinpec still enjoyed a good relationship with Hun Sen and the CPP.

Senior Funcinpec official Serei Kosal said there should be no impunity for individual

corruption.

"However, I think that one person cannot commit corruption in the government

ministries [alone], but it was within the system," Kosal said. "If the

government cannot eliminate corruption, that is not only the responsibility of one

party, it is the two parties in the coalition government."

Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitoring NGO Comfrel (the Committee

for Free and Fair Elections) said on August 9 that corruption is nothing new in Cambodia,

and would not be an issue that adversely affected any political party in the elections.

Socheat said he will submit his idea for Ranariddh to form an "Alliance of Nationalism"

with other political parties against the CPP when Ranariddh returns to Cambodia.

"I think the Alliance of Nationalism is the last political strategy before the

elections, otherwise there is no political party that can beat the CPP," Socheat

said.

Panha said that he supported the idea of making an alliance before the elections,

and the strategy would enable small parties to get seats in the National Assembly.

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