Flagging confidence in the leadership of the royalist Funcinpec party has led to the defection of more than 100 members to the Norodom Ranariddh Party, NRP officials said.
Pen Sangha, a spokesman for the NRP, said today that 127 Funcinpec members described as party activists in Kampong Cham’s Stung Trong, Chamkar Leu and Kroch Chhmar districts declared their defection to the NRP during a visit to the region by the eponymous party head Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
“Commune and district party officials have led their activists and supporters to defect to the NRP,” Pen Sangha said.
“We see that when the prince goes to the provinces, he receives widespread support from members and activists.”
He added that at the grassroots level, Funcinpec party members no longer have confidence in their leaders, such as Keo Puth Reaksmey and Nhek Bun Chhay, because they have failed to articulate a clear political platform.
Prak Chanthy, a former women’s movement leader for Funcinpec, said today her defection was the result of a loss of confidence in the party’s leadership.
“The top leaders have never gone down to visit the grassroots [organisation]. The top leaders have turned to the Cambodian People’s Party. I don’t have a branch to hang on to, so I must defect to the NRP.”
Or Sophat, Funcinpec’s deputy president in Prey Chhor district who took part in a welcoming event for the visiting prince, said he has no plans to defect to the NRP but would support a merger of the two parties before refusing to discuss the issue further.
Funcinpec spokesman Tom Sambol, however, dismissed reports of the defections, saying the allegations were the result of exaggerated reports by NRP officials.
“I have already checked the permanent commission of districts and provinces, and there are no members that have defected to the NRP,” he said.
“People close to the prince have reported these defections simply to earn favour with him. I believe that no one has defected because I am a strong man in Kampong Cham province as well.”
The reported defections come at a time when internal disputes within Funcinpec have pitted top leaders against each other over the alleged mismanagement of party property and funds.
Funcinpec central committee member Phan Chantha last month charged the party’s secretary general, Nhek Bun Chay, with selling the party’s headquarters on Norodom Boulevard for US$3.85 million and purchasing new offices in Kandal province for an undisclosed price.
Nhek Bun Chhay has dismissed the allegations, saying at the time that Phan Chantha had accused him because he was planning to defect to the NRP.