TAKEO CITY - A crowd of around 4,000 enthusiastic supporters and other interested
individuals greeted Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of FUNCINPEC as he kicked
off the party's electoral campaign on Apr. 15 in this provincial capital 60 kms south
of Phnom Penh.
The prince descended by helicopter into the center of a secondary school courtyard
amidst heavy security and was welcomed by unified chants of "Chaiyo (Long Live)
FUNC-INPEC, Chaiyo FUNCINPEC." He then proceeded to deliver a 35 minute addressto
In his speech Ranariddh underscored the fact that FUNC-INPEC was founded by his father,
Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and that the party had remained steadfastly "Sihanoukist."
"Today I feel like I am born again after more than 20 years when the country
fell into a holocaust. FUNCINPEC was established by Sihanouk and I am his son. I
and my father are standing here with you," Ranariddh said.
Prince Ranariddh predicted that if FUNCINPEC wins the election, Prince Sihanouk would
come back to lead the country.
"I am very proud because you are strong enough to support FUNCINPEC," Ranariddh
said. "If FUNCINPEC wins it means that the whole nation wins and Samdech Euv
will come back to rule the country as before."
Many party members present carried banners and posters depicting pictures of Prince
Sihanouk and his son, Ranariddh.
Ranariddh defended FUNCINPEC against accusations that have been made by the State
of Cambodia (SOC) that the party is aligned with the Khmer Rouge.
"I am not afraid of any accusation against myself as well as against FUNCINPEC
that FUNCINPEC is Khmer Rouge," Ranariddh said. "We hate the Khmer Rouge
and I would like to tell you that we belong to the party established by Samdech Euv.
If they accuse us of being Khmer Rouge it means that they accuse Samdech Euv of being
"We are all Buddhist devotees," the Prince explained. "And we also
respect other religions like Islam and Christianity. And this differs from Communism
which bans all kinds of religions. So it is not true when they accuse us of being
Khmer Rouge, that we are being dominated by the Khmer Rouge from top to bottom."
"And I myself have never been a Khmer Rouge," the Prince added.
The format of the event was also designed to bring back memories of Sihanouk's years
in power before he was overthrown by Lon Nol in l970.
Party officials noted that Rana-riddh's arrival by helicopter was reminiscent of
trips by Sihanouk in the 60s to rural areas and that the 30-member marching band
on hand for the occasion was a similar holdover from days gone by.
FUNCINPEC officials complained that SOC had prevented people from attending the rally.
"We rented many cars and trucks and last night SOC police cut the battery cables
and stole keys," alleged Sam Rainsy. "There are lots of ways they can put
pressure on us. Shopkeepers were pressured not to rent us cables for our microphones."
Rainsy said that if it weren't for these tactics more than 10,000 people would have
shown up for the event.
"The people came at great risk," Rainsy added."You can see it on their
faces. They have nothing to win and a lot to lose."
The complaints were relayed to UNTAC electoral officials in Takeo although it is
unclear what if any action was taken.
FUNCINPEC is the country's major opposition party in the run up to elections scheduled
for the end of May. The party says that it has more than 1,060 offices throughout
"This was a test case," said Ek Sereywath, Ranariddh's assistant. "Takeo
hasn't had many problems so far. I'm happy that the event went relatively well."
Ranariddh Kicks off Campaign