Following a meeting with a Chinese delegation yesterday morning, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh claimed to have requested monetary assistance from China, an apparent violation of the Law on Political Parties.
Funcinpec’s purported request for foreign funding follows the recent dissolution of Cambodia’s only viable opposition party – which Funcinpec largely replaced in the National Assembly – over widely panned accusations that it was colluding with foreign governments to topple the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“I did request the Chinese to help us. We became the second biggest party, but we are poorer than the other, very poor, and we are empty,” Ranariddh said to reporters after the meeting.
Ranariddh met with Wang Weiguang, president of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and claimed Wang pledged to report his request to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“They will continue to stand with us, like they used to provide to Funcinpec,” Ranariddh said, adding that China has already provided some materials, such as computers.
He said the purpose of the visit was for Wang to inform the party about the results of China’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, held in October.
The Kingdom’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was summarily dissolved at the government’s behest in November over claims it was fomenting a foreign-backed “revolution”. The party’s leader, Kem Sokha, is currently in prison awaiting trial for “treason” over 2013 remarks in which he told reporters he had received advice from the US early in his career.
The Law on Political Parties, meanwhile, states emphatically that parties are forbidden from receiving foreign funds.
“A political party shall be prohibited from receiving contributions in any form from foreign institutions, foreign companies, foreigners or those organisations which have foreign financing sources,” reads Article 29.
Funcinpec, a once powerful royalist party that has slipped into irrelevance since its 1990s heyday, was allocated the bulk of the CNRP’s National Assembly seats after its dissolution. Funcinpec filed the initial complaint against the CNRP to the Ministry of Interior, prompting questions as to whether a political deal had been struck.
Ranariddh, however, said he told the Chinese delegation that the dissolution of the CNRP was “purely implementation of the law”.
“I told the Chinese counterpart that it is the decision of our Supreme Court,” he said, adding that his party became the second biggest party because of the Supreme Court decision.
While Funcinpec now has the second most National Assembly seats after the ruling party – with 41 to the Cambodian People’s Party’s 79 – the party only received around 3 percent of the vote in the 2013 national elections and less than 2 percent in the 2016 commune elections.
“My target is to strengthen the royalist party,” Ranariddh continued.
Ranariddh also called on the Chinese to support the upcoming national elections. Both the US and the European Union recently cut funding to Cambodia’s election body, citing the impossibility of a free and fair election without the CNRP.
A representative of the Chinese Embassy said he was not aware of the request and declined to comment further.
Political analyst Meas Nee yesterday pointed out that not only was such a request in apparent violation of the Political Parties Law, it was also ironic given the CNRP was dissolved for its alleged ties to foreign states. “Suspicion over the fact that the CNRP might be receiving funds from the US is what lead to this conflict,” Nee said.
“If help is made available, then questions must be asked of the ruling party,” Nee said, adding that the CPP might opt not to enforce the rules since “Funcinpec was born out of their help”.
Noting the ruling party’s pivot away from the West and into China’s arms, Nee said that if Funcinpec too becomes dependent on China, then “the whole system will [have] interference from China”.
Former CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua said in a message that any funds to Funcinpec would only be “more money to destabilize democracy when it is invested in a party with nothing to show and kept alive for political convenience”.
“China will work with any leader in power even if China knows CPP has lost its popularity,” she added.
Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chin denied that the request even took place, despite Ranariddh’s remarks having been recorded. “We are Funcinpec never ever asking any other country money including this morning with the chinese delegation,” he said in a message.
Bun Chin said Funcinpec discussed the relationship between Cambodia and China, and the results of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.“That’s all,” he added.