Prince Norodom Rannaridh (left) hands out 5,000 riel notes (about US$1.25) to party supporters at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
In a flashy first appearance on the campaign trail yesterday in Phnom Penh, Prince Norodom Ranariddh peeled off cash to supporters, defended the upcoming merger with Funcinpec and said that voting for certain opposition parties was the same as throwing ballots into the river.
Representatives from the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, whom Prince Ranariddh targeted for criticism, responded by calling him a puppet of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had encouraged the merger. And an election monitor said that doling out cash to supporters was common, but it could give observers the wrong idea.
“All the parties, they give money to the activists, because they pay them to organise activities. They post leaflets, they carry loudspeakers,” said Koul Panha with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.
“It’s not a good image. People could consider it vote buying, because they don’t know who they [the activists] are.”
Pen Sangha, a spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh party, said the money is needed to pay supporters for their services.
It is intended for necessities like “gasoline and lunch” after campaigning, he said.
Standing at a spot outside the Wat Phnom resort, Prince Ranariddh explained that only Hun Sen could have facilitated this merger.
Indeed, he said the idea appeared to him in a dream.
He then showered Hun Sen with effusive praise, calling him a strong leader who solves problems while claiming that opposition parties can’t help people.
Representatives from SRP and HRP shrugged his comments off and categorized Prince Ranariddh as an irrelevant political figurehead.
“We are not interested in what he said, because he is a spokesman of the Cambodian People’s Party. He used to be prime minister until he lost almost all the seats,” SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.
“What Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh] said, no one listen. There is no surprise. Everyone knows who Samdech Krom Preah is. Samdech Krom Preah’s name is not in the heart of people any more,” HRP spokesman Pol Ham said.
To contact the reporter on this story:Meas Sokchea at [email protected]