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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Quit and save face, Hokry told

Quit and save face, Hokry told

Prince Norodom Ranariddh vows to speak out more.

The Funcinpec President, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, offered embattled minister You

Hokry the opportunity to resign and save face at the party's 21st National Congress,

a senior Funcinpec party member told the Post.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said that several members of the Funcinpec

steering committee endorsed the Prince's actions, which would have allowed Hokry

to remain in the party and in the National Assembly, but not as the powerful co-Minister

of Interior.

In a ten-point resolution endorsed by the congress March 21, the party vowed to "change

the positions of its members at all levels, especially those who are incompetent

and/or working to destroy the interests of the party".

That was apparently a clear swipe at Hokry, who has become steadily less popular

within the party over the past few years.

"During his time at the ministry he cut the names of about 4,000 Funcinpec police

officers, especially former resistance fighters, from the quota [for jobs in the

ministry]," the source said.

Hokry has also been criticized by large sections of the party for delaying the release

of a list of alleged Cambodian Freedom Fighters. The list contained the names of

Funcinpec members including party secretary-general, Prince Norodom Sirivudh. Party

members led by RCAF deputy commander-in-chief Khan Savoeun called for Hokry's dismissal.

Ranariddh told journalists at the congress that he was unhappy with Hokry's misuse

of the CFF list.

"I think that this was serious mistake, because leaders of the party were on

the list, including some of my bodyguards," said Ranariddh.

"I don't dare say [that the inclusion of Funcinpec members] was intentional,

but this issue involves national peace and security and has to be finished,"

he said, calling on the CPP co-Minister of Interior, Sar Kheng, to eliminate the

list.

Funcinpec party members listen to their leader address their annual congress March 21.

Explaining the anger in Funcinpec, another senior party member told the Post March

27 that, "Hokry has used the CFF as a bargaining chip to try to uphold his position".

Ranariddh initially indicated that the issue of You Hokry would be resolved within

a week of the congress. However, before the week was up he was already playing for

more time, and put off the restructuring until after Khmer New Year, which ends April

16. Insiders said that intense discussion of the issue was continuing behind closed

doors.

Senator Nhiek Bun Chhay said Hokry's fate was now in the hands of the party leadership.

"This issue is still being handled in secret, so the whole matter now is only

in the hands of the secretary-general and Prince Norodom Ranariddh," he said.

But another source close to the party said there was "no way" Prince Ranariddh

could fire Hokry without imperiling his own position.

Hokry, who helped broker the coalition deal between CPP and Funcinpec, is a key link

between the two parties, he said, and has allies inside the CPP. However, Hokry's

opponents are not perturbed.

"If he does not resign then we will push our case in the National Assembly and

vote to remove him," said one. "We have an agreement with the CPP, so they

have to support our demands [in the Assembly]".

Forward

Renewal, strengthening the party and change were the themes of the 10-point resolution

endorsed at the congress. The party vowed to resolve a range of issues including

corruption, the use of fabricated accusations and detention without evidence, the

abuse of human rights and judicial impunity, and the failure to increase investment

in Cambodia.

Funcinpec would also propose sweeping amendments to the National Election Committee

"which lacks the conditions of neutrality and justice," the resolution

stated.

The party demanded that 95 percent of eligible voters be registered by the NEC for

the 2003 elections, and insisted all political parties be given equal media access

during the election campaign.

The congress also endorsed Prince Ranariddh's speech in which he walked a tightrope

between junior coalition partner and an alternative government.

The annual meeting was in stark contrast to the previous year's gathering, which

emphasized the importance of the coalition agreement. Both Prime Minister Hun Sen

and senior minister Sok An made appearances at the 2001 congress, but neither came

this year.

Ranariddh called on supporters not to lose faith after the party's poor showing at

the February 3 commune elections and rebutted criticism that Funcinpec was rapidly

becoming irrelevant.

"One million people voted for Funcinpec under pressure from the authorities,"

he told the gathered ministers, secretaries of state and party faithful.

In his speech, which lasted one hour and a half, he said Funcinpec wanted to drive

in the front seat of the car after 2003, not the back seat, and he chided Funcinpec

parliamentarians for staying silent during debates in the National Assembly.

"We dare not speak out, that is why the people did not vote for us," Ranariddh

said, in a frank admission of the party's recent failings.

Ranariddh drew a huge cheer from the crowd when he said the party needed to become

far more outspoken to attract votes at the next election. However, he stopped short

of criticizing the ruling CPP.

Instead he focused on Bangkok Airways' use of the image of the Bayon at Angkor

Wat on their airplanes as an example of the type of issue the party should take up

publicly.

He also appeared concerned that Funcinpec could lose supporters to the opposition

Sam Rainsy Party, and advised party members to be close to the poor people and moto-dups

in Cambodia.

Ranariddh took a leaf from the opposition leader's book by appealing to nationalist

sentiment. He criticized illegal immigrants for taking Cambodian jobs and told the

gathering Funcinpec would never agree to border agreements signed by the State of

Cambodia in the early 1980s.

He reminded supporters of the reasons Funcinpec entered the coalition, and said

that his father, King Sihanouk, wished the coalition to continue.

"Funcinpec is the only political party that has given up its personal interests

for the peace and stability for the nation to preserve the benefit for the people,"

said Ranariddh.

"If Funcinpec had not shared power with the CPP the country would have separated

in two," he said, referring to the period following the 1993 election when CPP

elements organized a "succession" movement of seven eastern provinces .

"As the leader of Funcinpec, I could not allow such autonomous area in the country,"

he said.

He also called on the party to be more vocal over its successes in attracting aid

and infrastructure projects such as the redevelopment of the airport and the new

bridge in Kampong Cham.

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