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Prince vows to target rival royalists

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, has announced that he will call on grassroots Funcinpec supporters to join his party if Funcinpec’s leaders continue to oppose a merger plan put forward by the Prince.

NRP spokesman Pen Sangha said today that Ranariddh travelled to Kratie province on Saturday to meet with more than 300 party members and woo local Funcinpec activists ahead of next year’s commune council election.

“If Funcinpec will not merge with the NRP we will appeal to grassroots Funcinpec members to join us,” Pen Sangha said.

Prince Ranariddh returned to political life last month, more than two years after his retirement, pledging to revitalise the country’s flagging royalist movement.

However, the prince’s proposal to form a unified royalist party – to be called Funcinpec 81, after the date of the party’s founding – has been blocked by the leadership of Funcinpec. Ranariddh, Funcinpec’s former president, was fired from the party in 2006 following allegations he embezzled party funds.

Pen Sangha claimed that during Ranariddh’s trip to Kratie, some Funcinpec members had already decided to defect to the NRP, though he did not know their exact number.

“If both parties cannot merge, I have seen that grassroots Funcinpec leaders would come to join the NRP,” he said.

Por Hea, Funcinpec’s acting president in Sambor district who attended a speech by Prince Ranariddh on Saturday, said that he was impressed by the prince’s leadership and has decided to defect to the NRP.

“I love him because I have followed him for a long time,” Por Hea said.

“I will collect 700-800 Funcinpec members to join the NRP.”

When contacted today, Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reaksmey denied that his party had refused the merger plan, accusing the NRP in turn of failing to adhere to the terms of an agreement between the parties.

He said he had confidence that Funcinpec’s leaders would stand firm and resist the temptation to join the NRP.

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