Tensions in the upper echelons of the royalist Funcinpec party edged ever closer to boiling over yesterday with Nhek Bun Chhay – long one of the party’s most influential figures – accusing newly returned president Prince Norodom Ranariddh of dismantling the party’s leadership and stacking it with loyalists.
While avowing that he was not against Ranariddh, second deputy president Bun Chhay said yesterday that the Prince’s alleged decision to disband the party’s central and permanent committees and replace them almost entirely with his own allies ran counter to the principle of reunification under which Ranariddh was invited back to Funcinpec after his ouster in 2006.
“I and [first deputy president] Princess [Norodom] Arun Rasmey have invited Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh] back to reunite royalist Sihanoukists, but when the prince came, [his] arrangement of the party is contrary to that aim,” Nhek Bun Chhay said.
The purported reshuffling, he added, had been carried out without consulting him and Arun Rasmey, and had alienated provincial party leaders.
“This is the reason that’s causing problems. Most of them do not accept it,” Bun Chhay said. “Reuniting is making additions; it is not making subtractions.”
In a letter issued on Monday, Ranariddh called on Bun Chhay and Arun Rasmey to stop their opposition, and to join forces to bring the weakened Funcinpec back to national relevance.
Ranariddh could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his spokesman, Nhep Bun Chin, maintained that the prince had not yet dismantled the party’s structure. Rather, Bun Chin added, the Prince had formed a working group tasked with preparing new party statutes in the interest of streamlining what he characterised as the party’s bloated leadership, which Bun Chin blamed for its failure to win any parliamentary seats in 2013.
“If we have zero seats, and we still continue with a leadership structure that’s too big and sloppy, we would continue [to have] zero,” he said.