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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funcinpec to rely on the throne and the "price of rice"

Funcinpec to rely on the throne and the "price of rice"

F UNCINPEC Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh has publicly dismissed suggestions

he will resign or challenge party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh at next month's

planned Funcinpec congress.

Sirivudh said he was committed to helping Funcinpec through to the 1998 general election,

and speculation in the Khmer press that he would quit or vie for the party presidency

was untrue.

"I would like to be clear on this - the congress is not about presidential mandate."

Prince Ranariddh's mandate as president lasts until February 1996 and Sirivudh said

he would support any move to extend that mandate until 1998, because "we don't

have the time to fight each other."

He was adamant that if he was to leave Funcinpec, he would have to be pushed.

"I was born Funcinpec. I never resign. If they take me out of Funcinpec, of

course, but I never resign.

"If you leave Funcinpec, you can create a party, that's good. But if you are

in the party, you cannot fight the president."

Sirivudh's future in Funcinpec has been the subject of considerable speculation -

particularly since close friend Sam Rainsy foreshadowed the formation of a new party

- because of his poor relations with Ranariddh.

The pair have had disputes over a number of issues, especially Rainsy's expulsion

from Funcinpec and the party's handling of its role as "the ruling party"

in the coalition.

In a Sept 30 interview with the Post, Sirivudh indicated the two Princes still had

their differences.

He indirectly criticized Ranariddh's recent call for Cambodia to introduce the death

penalty, saying such an important issue should be put before party members first.

He also hinted at differences between himself and other party leaders over how the

Funcinpec congress should be run.

He said he hoped the first day of the congress, at least, could be large with as

many as possible attending.

Asked whether Ranariddh agreed with that, he said: "Perhaps what I would like

as Secretary-General is not what the steering committee would like 100 per cent.

We need to meet a crossing point."

Sirivudh has been planning the congress - the first since 1992 - for months.

Following Rainsy's June expulsion from the National Assembly, he said the congress

was even more important to allow "real democratic" debate on the Rainsy

affair and the party's future.

Sirivudh said last week that he hoped there would be no "confrontation"

at the congress, tentatively scheduled for Nov 2, and he would do nothing to encourage

any.

But the party's rank-and-file from around the Kingdom had to have the opportunity

to raise questions and get answers about their concerns.

"I hope there will be unity. But you have to listen to them. They have something

to say, not necessarily about the leadership but about their problems in the provinces."

Sirivudh believed the congress should address issues such as how to help Funcinpec

secure 50 per cent of real power in the coalition government, how to fully integrate

its police force into the national police and what could be done to prevent food

shortages.

He did not agree with comments by Rainsy that the name of Funcinpec was so badly

"tarnished" that it was almost beyond saving.

Sirivudh said Funcinpec still had 1996 and 1997 to make real improvements for the

lives of Khmers before going to the election.

Noting with concern the rising price of rice, he said the most basic things like

that could decide how people voted.

"Forget Sirivudh, forget Sam Rainsy - the price of rice," he said, symbolically

slamming his fist on to a table.

Also important, though, was that Funcinpec be seen to be the Royalist party.

"We must give the perception to the people that we are close to the King, we

must support some of his ideas.

"They are not interested in this leader or that leader, they like their nation,

they like their father of the nation.

"If His Majesty says left, and we go right, we have a problem."

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