FUNCINPEC officials admit several hurdles - most importantly, lack of money - remain
to be overcome before the party can hold an extraordinary congress to elect a new
president and prepare for next year's elections.
"It could be this year if we have enough financial support. It's a matter of
time - it might be November, it might be later," said Funcinpec Dean Nady Tan.
"The party is shaken. Most of the members are spread all over. Even the Steering
Committee's 33 members, we don't know where they are exactly."
The plans to hold a Congress follow the return of senior Funcinpec leaders from visiting
the King in Beijing, where they pledged to settle their party differences.
"The congress is to show to the public that we are a reunited family,"
said Toan Chay, the Siem Reap governor who led a Funcinpec breakaway earlier this
Chay was proclaimed party president - replacing Prince Norodom Ranariddh - at a June
1 congress held by the dissidents.
Chay still claims he is the president but another Funcinpec faction, that of Loy
Sim Chheang and Nady Tan - who have also abandoned Ranariddh to work with Hun Sen's
new government - are not so sure.
"Well, that's what he says. I have no comment on that, " said Nady Tan
about Toan Chay's leadership claim.
Nady Tan said that the presidency, as well as party by-laws and the Funcinpec logo,
which currently bears Ranariddh's portrait, will be put to a vote at the congress.
According to party by-laws, Ranariddh is still the legal president of Funcinpec until
he is voted out. Both Nady Tan and Toan Chay say Ranariddh is welcome at the congress.
Ung Huot - whose nomination to replace Ranariddh as First Prime Minister was supported
by both Funcinpec factions which remain in Cambodia - said the party would soon be
"On the trip to Beijing, both of them, Toan Chay and Nady Tan, promised in front
of the King that we will be together again and organize a congress to elect a new
president. Whoever the president will be, I don't know," said Ung Huot Aug 15.
Nady Tan has ruled out himself and Minister of Mines, Energy and Industry, Pou Sothirak,
as presidential candidates. Other obvious front-runners for the post, besides Toan
Chay, would include Ung Huot and acting chairman of the National Assembly, Loy Sim
The selection of a new president will be difficult, according to Nady Tan, given
the party's royalist history. "Funcinpec was a party founded by the King. It's
a royalist party. To administer the party there should be a Royal family. This is
the most important characteristic of the party," Nady Tan said.
Meanwhile, senior Funcinpec leaders are keeping a closed lid on discussions within
the party over the replacement of the 14 Funcinpec MPs and 19 members of the government
who are absent.
The majority of missing MPs are absent from the National Assembly without permission
but have up to three months to return before their seats fall vacant.
Members of the government who are not MPs can be replaced sooner, at the discretion
of the First Prime Minister and the party's steering committee, said Nady Tan.
According to several senior government sources, intense jockeying within the party
for government and civil service positions has already begun, with Toan Chay insisting
on positions for those who supported his initial breakaway.
Toan Chay has thrown his own hat into the ring for the post of former Minister of
Agriculture Tao Seng Hour, who has announced his retirement.
"I have made a request to Hun Sen and Ung Huot to be the Minister of Agriculture,"
said Toan Chay, claiming that both had agreed to his bid for the portfolio.
Nady Tan denied that refilling government portfolios is a "priority" for
the party, and said he was confident that many of those now absent will return to
"These people are telling us that they are coming, so why should we break our
hearts to replace them," he said.
It might be a long wait. Some of those listed as absent have been reported dead,
while others - who have maintained their loyalty to Prince Ranariddh - are fearful
"I don't think I can go back now. As long as my country is not ruled by law,
I can't put myself in danger," said Ahmad Yahya, a Funcinpec MP now in Thailand.