Senior members of the royalist Funcinpec party have quit their positions and joined a rival party headed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is himself a former leader of Funcinpec.
Several senior Funcinpec leaders are now known to have defected to the Community of Royalist People’s Party (CRPP), led by Ranariddh, since it was formed in March.
On Monday, letters of termination were issued by Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey, confirming the termination of party membership of Por Bunsreu, the former second chairman of the Senate and a secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence; Say Hak, former Preah Sihanouk provincial governor; King Samnang, former deputy National Police chief; and senior Funcinpec party official Long Rithya.
Tom Sambol, a Funcinpec spokesman and adviser to the military, followed his former colleagues in recent days, filing his resignation. But, he said, it was unusual for letters of termination to be issued by the party.
“There have never been letters of termination like this,” Sambol said. “If someone quits, it means he quits automatically.
“I cannot stay with Funcinpec any more, so I will accompany [Ranariddh],” he added, without elaborating on his reasons for leaving the party.
The new CRPP members said they defected because they believed the CRPP would have a better chance of securing seats in parliament at the next general election.
“The prince is still popular, he has a very good heart,” Bunsreu said.
Hak, the former Preah Sihanouk governor, said that the party planned to erode support for Funcinpec secretary- general Nhek Bun Chhay by attracting low-ranking members to the CRPP.
“When they come, the top will fall off,” he said.
But Bun Chhay yesterday played down the defections and the influence of the CRPP.
“We had to issue the termination letters in case they talk any nonsense, which people might associate with the [Funcinpec] party. We had to let the people know,” he said.
“[Ranariddh] so far has not found enough people to hold a party congress, and even the party’s leadership has not yet been appointed.”