Kem Sokha, the president of the opposition Human Rights Party, said yesterday that he will not ally himself with returned royalist leader and former party colleague Prince Norodom Ranariddh, questioning the extent of his political independence.
Speaking to reporters at the HRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters yesterday, he called on the prince to clarify his political stance towards the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, with which Ranariddh has said he will seek a coalition deal.
“So long as the Prince does not clearly show his stance, whether he is on the side of the democrats or on the side of the absolute communists … we will not open negotiations to merge with NRP,” Kem Sokha said.
Ranariddh formally announced his return to political life on Saturday, at the head of the newly renamed Norodom Ranariddh Party. He has called for the formation of a reunified royalist party – to be known as Funcinpec 81 – and expressed his interest in entering into a coalition with the CPP following the 2013 national election.
The prince, who led Funcinpec to victory in the United Nations-backed 1993 elections, was kicked out of the party in 2006 in connection with accusations of embezzlement, and retired from politics two years later.
Yesterday’s press conference was prompted by rumours that Kem Sokha, a former Funcinpec member, agreed in 2009 to a merger in the event Ranariddh returned to political life.
But he said yesterday that Ranariddh’s desire to enter into a coalition deal with the CPP raised questions about his recent vow to remain politically neutral.
“Samdech Krom Preah is not a new actor,” said Kem Sokha, referring to Ranariddh by his royal honourific.
“He is an old political actor and Khmer people know Samdech Krom Preah clearly. If the Prince still walks on the same way and plays the same game … they do not need him but if he has a new exchange people can try him again.”
When contacted yesterday, NRP spokesman Pen Sangha said the prince was working for the good of the Cambodian people, adding that the HRP’s oppositionist stance had left it with little say in government.
“I would like to ask … what benefit have those opposition parties received from their opposition for the people? The prince has seen that this is profitless, that’s why the prince has established a centrist path,” he said. “The opposition is just the opposition, its ideas have never been taken into consideration.”