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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Inside Funcinpec: cracks apparent

Inside Funcinpec: cracks apparent


Some party insiders question Ranariddh's leadership.

PRINCE Ranariddh's leadership of Funcinpec is under threat following growing unhappiness

in all levels of the party over his performance and attitude, say party insiders.

Party members complain of cronyism and corruption on the part of the people closest

to the Prince, at the same time saying the Prince has not had the moral fiber to

make a stance on anything other than his own position and advancement.

One insider said that the prince has realized he will never better Hun Sen, and is

now trying to make the best of things for himself.

"The Prince tried hard to be Prime Minister but he was not able enough, not

clever enough to get that position," he said.

"So after that he was thinking about power.

"He did not care about the party, he just wanted the best position he could


He added that the Prince did not have the right attitude to lead a political party.

"I remember the Prince used to say that we had to swim with the current and

swerve to avoid obstacles.

"This means he does not have the real commitment to lead the party as well as

not having a real love of the country, because he never takes a strong stance or


However the dissatisfaction was dismissed by Funcinpec General Secretary and Education

Minister Tol Lah.

"There is no organization in which everyone is happy with their leader,"

he said, adding that such comments show just how democratic Funcinpec is.

"Funcinpec is a liberal party. If people want to say these things we let them.

Maybe we are not as disciplined as other parties.

He said that if people are unhappy they could bring the matter up at a party congress,

or they could leave the party.

However, he said, no-one had the right "to steal the party" - they

could leave but they could not take the Funcinpec name or organization.

The feelings of unhappiness are strongest among former Funcin-pec army and police

officials who said the Prince had abandoned them after they sacrificed everything

for him following the 1997 coup.

While many of the soldiers who formed the resistance in O'Smach have been re-integrated

into RCAF, a number of senior officers complain they had to take much lower positions

on their return.

However they are more fortunate than some of their colleagues. A former Funcinpec

commander spoken to by the Post said that 125 former officers in Siem Reap had been

refused positions in RCAF and were now destitute.

He said appeals to the Prince had fallen on deaf ears. He said the Prince even refused

to help out with funeral costs for people who died fighting for him.

Tol Lah acknowledged that there had been some problems with the reintegration but

he said Prince Ranarriddh was looking for a solution.

"The Prince has been discussing this with Hun Sen and a solution will be found

soon," he said.

A senior Funcinpec official who has dealt with the disaffected soldiers said that

the disquiet was not limited to them but was throughout the party, even at the grass

roots level, and that people blamed the Prince for their woes.

He said people were facing up to the realization that low morale in the party and

moves to replace the leader were not the work of outside forces but internal problems.

"In the past we blamed Hun Sen but now we see that Hun Sen was right and the

Prince was wrong.

"This is not because of any interference from the CPP, it is because of the

poor performance of the Prince."

He said that the Prince must be aware of his standing in the party because of the

reaction of the people to him.

He said that Ranariddh complained that at Khmer New Year only about 10 people went

to see him to express their best wishes.

Meanwhile, the rumors of rampant corruption are also undermining the Prince.

Insiders said that the senate was a cash bonanza for senior members of the party,

giving the example of one senator having bought his position in the party and his

seat at the senate for $100,000.

Provincial governorships were also said to have been sold off.

Tol Lah again dismissed suggestions that positions had been sold, saying the rumors

sprang from the delay in appointing a governor to Phnom Penh.

He said that people assumed there was some sort of auction in progress for the position

but that was not the case.

"I too have heard these rumors, but they are untrue."

"No governor had been appointed to Phnom Penh because it was still being negotiated

with CPP, who wanted to put their own person into the position."

While the dissatisfaction might be widespread, there is less consensus on what action

to take.

The Siem Reap contingent want to see the Prince replaced but are not confident that

a congress would push it through.

This view is echoed by other outsiders who say that the Prince is adept at stacking

the congress with his "yes men" to ensure he gets his way.

However, an insider said that the moves to get rid of the Prince were underway and

that a successor had been identified.

He would not say who the succesor might be.

"He will be accepted by all the people in Funcinpec, both high and low, and

will be acceptable to royalty.

"People are actively talking about that [the split]."

He said any successor would ideally be a member of the Royal family but not necessarily

so. He said while Funcinpec was still the Royalist party attitudes were changing.

"People are different now - the old people loved the king and they pass

that on to their children, but it does not get passed on entirely.

"His support is slipping," he said.



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