Photo by: Sovan Philong
Prince Norodom Ranariddh speaks during an interview with The Post last month.
Leaders of the royalist Funcinpec party have reaffirmed their opposition to a merger with Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s self-named party, just weeks after the former prime minister floated the proposal.
Prince Ranariddh, who made a surprise return to political life last month, has proposed the creation of a new party – to be called Funcinpec 81 – as a means of reuniting and reinvigorating the Kingdom’s flagging royalist movement.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the heads of Funcinpec, which is currently in government as the minor coalition partner of the Cambodian People’s Party, said the party would not take part in any merger.
“The Funcinpec party would like to deny and reject completely a request or any initiative about the merger of the Funcinpec 81 movement,” read the statement.
It added that a December 6 meeting between the Norodom Ranariddh Party head and Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reaksmey was private and did not indicate any agreement on the merger plan.
The statement did not indicate why Funcinpec was rejecting the Prince’s proposal, but early last month, Funcinpec officials said that relinquishing the Funcinpec name would disrupt the party’s historical continuity and impact its popularity.
Since Funcinpec’s victory in the elections in 1993, the royalist movement has been on a steady decline. In 2008, both royalist parties won a combined four seats in the 123-seat National Assembly.
Yesterday, NRP representatives expressed regret at Funcinpec’s position on the merger.
“I am so regretful about the Funcinpec party’s rejection,” said NRP spokesman Pen Sangha. “I’m not saying that the present Funcinpec has walked far from its previous principles; I want to keep and defend Funcinpec’s principles.... The best way is the merger of both royalist parties.”
Keo Puth Reaksmey could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Funcinpec spokesman Tom Sambol reiterated that his December meeting with Ranariddh was private in nature.