Internal divisions and dissatisfaction look set to dominate the annual congress of
the royalist Funcinpec party on March 21.
There has been much criticism over co-Minister of Interior You Hokry, while many
members are angry at Funcinpec's dismal showing in the recent commune elections.
Others are annoyed at the party's reluctance to confront corruption and nepotism.
"I am saddened and feel pain in my heart, because the party is at a crossroads,"
said party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh. "I would not say the party is in
a state of unrest, but it is facing a difficult situation."
He attributed the split over Hokry to jockeying for personal political positions
within the coalition government. Funcinpec has been in coalition with the CPP since
national elections in 1993.
"The issue is a lack of responsibility inside Funcinpec," said Ranariddh.
"People shouldn't take the opportunity to gain position when it is necessary
that the party reform its structure. If we want to remain in government, we will
need to make an effort for the next 15 months to strengthen the party for the 2003
Ranariddh conceded that some party officials were against continuing the coalition
with the CPP, feeling it had cost Funcinpec support in the commune elections. He
said Funcinpec's focus was on political stability and social security Cambodia.
"Some of our brothers inside Funcinpec complain there are no benefits in cooperating
with the CPP. They say power is not equally balanced," he told reporters March
11. "I would like to remind them that Funcinpec will not walk away from the
coalition, but we should perhaps approach the CPP to ensure some changes, because
there is no balance for us."
Lu Laysreng, the Minister of Information and a senior Funcinpec member, told the
Post that former royalist resistance fighters had complained to him that Ranariddh
had weakened the party. The fighters, he said, felt the party lacked strategic objectives
and the will to fight corruption.
Laysreng said they had come to him, because they regarded him as one of the old guard,
a reliable man who thought carefully about party issues. He claimed 98 percent of
the former fighters were against Hokry, saying he had fired their brethren from the
police when he took the top job at the Ministry of Interior.
They also, said Laysreng, felt Hokry was guilty of nepotism. Hokry's son-in-law,
Che Sambo, was sacked last year from his position as under-secretary of state at
the Ministry of Tourism for his alleged involvement in a visa scam.
Battle lines have been drawn between Hokry, whose support base is unclear, and members
loyal to both the deputy commander-in-chief of the army, Khan Savoeun, and Hokry's
deputy at the MoI, Kieng Vang.
Ranariddh said he met the two factions on March 11 and felt the episode was more
a dispute of personal issues than substance. Laysreng said that wasn't the case.
"It is not down to personal interests," said Laysreng. "Therefore
the matter must be solved amicably." He added that former resistance fighters
were ignored for positions of power when Funcinpec entered its coalition with the
CPP in 1993.
"The families of those police and military have lost confidence in Funcinpec
and no longer vote for the royalist party. This has weakened the party," said
Laysreng. He called for a party reshuffle to counter what the former resistance fighters
told him was the overbearing influence of "overseas" party members holding
Ranariddh said that among the topics for discussion at Funcinpec's annual congress
were the party's performance in the commune elections, its relationship with the
CPP, and reforming and revising the party structure. Ranariddh said there would be
a reshuffle of provincial governors, but said no decision had been made on Hokry's