A S Funcinpec signboards disappear from party offices in many parts of the country
barely four months after Prince Norodom Ranariddh was forced from power, the extent
of CPP dominance in the provinces is becoming abundantly clear.
Officials put into place by the CPP or its predecessor, the State of Cambodia government,
hold three-fourths of all top provincial administrative positions, while the party
effectively wields governing power in about two-thirds of the nation's provinces,
a survey of top officials shows.
While CPP's long-standing domination in the provinces is well-known, the survey -
conducted by a local non-governmental organization - provides what are believed to
be the first statistics showing how great it is. CPP appears to have even greater
control of the countryside since the July coup.
Provincial governments are expected to play a key role in arranging elections which
are scheduled to take place next May.
The CPP, which was given 10 governorships following the 1993 Untac-sponsored elections,
now appears to effectively run at least 14 provinces as their deputy-governors or
deputy-mayors fill in for four Funcinpec governors who are missing (one is believed
dead) or inactive for "personal reasons".
Kep Governor Chea Rithichhut is missing (believed by many to have been killed following
the July 5-6 fighting), while one other governor has been absent from his post since
July, according to the survey which was compiled by an NGO and released on condition
At least two other Funcinpec governors remain in their posts but are entirely inactive,
leaving real power in the hands of CPP deputy first governors, provincial observers
Phnom Penh Mayor Chhim Siekleng, a Funcinpec member, holds virtually no real power
to govern as a result of the near total CPP domination of the municipal government,
an adviser to the municipality confirmed on Nov 2.
Funcinpec officials said the situation was similar in Sihanoukville where Governor
Thoam Bun Sron has been frozen out of the decision making process.
The Funcinpec presence in Phnom Penh is further weakened by the absence of its two
deputy mayors who have yet to return to their posts.
Funcinpec and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) of Son Sann, which were
given 11 governorships and mayorships following the 1993 elections, now appear to
wield the power to govern in eight or less.
Among their eight remaining provinces, at least two remain in the hands of officials
who drove a wedge into the party in April by backing a schism to topple Funcinpec
President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The allegiances of Siem Reap Governor Toan Chay and Banteay Meanchey Governor Duong
Khem were further brought into question when it was later revealed that they had
received money from CPP-kingmaker and tycoon Teng Bunma to start a Funcinpec renegade
Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey, two provinces long considered to be Funcinpec bastions,
ironically appear to be among the most CPP-dominated administrations in the country.
In challenging the leadership of Prince Ranariddh in April, Chay said that he had
no choice but to work with the CPP administrators in his province.
Chay is the sole Funcinpec member active in the upper ranks of Siem Reap's administration,
according to the NGO survey. He is reportedly surrounded by 29 high-ranking police,
military, deputy governors and provincial administrators given their positions by
One official has been missing since the July confrontation while another position
remains unfilled, the survey adds.
The situation looks equally bleak for Funcinpec in the neighboring province of Banteay
Meanchey, where Khem is accompanied by only one other Funcinpec member and two members
of the BLDP, the survey says. Twenty-three other top officials were reportedly given
their posts by the CPP or the State of Cambodia.
Funcinpec's decline can also be seen in the permanent or temporary loss of at least
seven deputy governors this year. The royalists, who were given at least 30 deputy
governorships following the 1993 elections, now hold only 23, while the BLDP retains
Provincial observers say that even Funcinpec's reduced presence is an overstatement
of its power as many provincial political officials are incapable of getting work
done in what they consider to be a CPP-dominated environment.
"They don't go to work because they don't want to work for the CPP," one
observer said. "Others are afraid to go to their provinces, so they stay in
A survey of 13 of the nation's 21 provinces and municipalities, the CPP holds sway
over at least three-quarters of top provincial positions of authority.
Only 16 percent of the positions - barely one in six - are held by Funcinpec despite
its 1993 electoral victory.
Further weakening the limited Funcinpec presence is the continuing divisions within
the party, as the loyalties of many Funcinpec provincial officials are divided between
the Toan Chay faction and others who may remain loyal to deposed first prime minister
Prince Norodom Ranaridhh.
Another 2.6 percent of the positions are held by the BLDP, which is also divided
between factions loyal to either Son Sann or Ieng Mouly, an electoral ally of the
An additional 1.8 percent of provincial positions remain empty as officials cannot
be found or fled the country after the July fighting.
The non-governmental organization that put together the survey of officials in provincial
politics, courts, police and prison departments, military divisions, and provincial
ministries, was unable to determine which party placed the remaining 4.4 percent
of officials in their positions.
Pursat appears to be the province where Funcinpec and BLDP hold the largest percentage
of top spots, as one-third of the provincial officials are linked to their parties.
Their success there is tempered, however, by the presence of Third Deputy Governor
Ka Lean who supported the April schism.
Several high-ranking CPP officials said that they were not surprised by the clear
domination of their party on the provincial landscape and they suggested that the
balance of power is likely to further tilt their way.
"It is not surprising to me," said Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak,
who added that empty Funcinpec postings will be filled in by whoever is most capable,
regardless of their party affiliation.
"The Second Prime Minister has said, 'No more quotas'," Sopheak said.
Sopheak acknowledged that the changes are likely to boost CPP dominance around the
country because CPP officials generally have more experience, are better trained
and because many Funcinpec officials have fled.
He said that military, political and police officials in the provinces must soon
return to work or they will lose their posts.
One government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that it would
be a mistake to assume all officials put in their jobs by the CPP, or the State of
Cambodia government, are CPP members or that they are faithful to the party. "If
they were given their posts in the old regime, it does not mean they are CPP."
The official added that one of Funcinpec's greatest tactical errors was to believe
that all people in the state apparatus were CPP, which caused them to put their political
focus on power-sharing.
The official said that this error by Funcinpec divided all government administrations
between the two parties and led to their downfall in the July fighting. "They
divided structures and it led to infighting. The main cause of that was power sharing."
"Some believe all structures had to be integrated. Integration is a good idea
[but] after integration, there is factionalism which led...to the July conflict,"
the official added.
"The idea of a neutral military and police will never happen. I am sorry to
say, this is the case [because] it is at the core of a democratic society. Pluralism
means a competition of ideas. When you let the military and the police factionalize,
they are all working for politicians."