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Party congress will look to provinces

Party congress will look to provinces

A FTER more than a year searching for a place of influence in the coalition

government, Funcinpec is now turning its attention to strengthening its

foundation before the next election.

In an interview with the Post,

Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh admitted the party's

substructure remained weak.

This fact has prompted executives to call up

to 3,000 party members - from the national, provincial, district and

sub-district levels - to meet for its first-ever party congress in May or June.

Although the next election is three years away, Sirivudh said the

congress would aim to redefine its strategies and goals for the 1998 vote.

"We would like to see what is Funcinpec in 1997 and what will be our new

identity to face the 1998 election," he said.

He conceded the Royalist

party has suffered from a lack of experience in running administration since it

joined the coalition with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) in

1993.

"Then, the priority of the party was how to run the government, but

now it's time... to think about the party," he said. Funcinpec celebrated the

third anniversary of the opening of its Phnom Penh office on Feb 28. It moved to

the capital from the Thai border after being founded by King Norodom Sihanouk in

1981.

The congress will aim to modify the party's status, electing a

vice-president, setting up a new headquarters and turning its focus on the

reorganization of the party's network and structure at the provincial level.

The most important target, he said, was to get 50 percent control of the

districts where the administrative structure remained intact under the CPP.

Prince Sirivudh reiterated Funcinpec's position was not to start a

confrontation with the CPP, saying that long-term stability of Cambodia relied

on the two working together.

"That is the real condition," he said. "As a

competitor, you must pull the string in a very positive way, but the string must

never be broken."

However, he said avoiding confrontation did not mean

saying 'yes' all the time and that Funcinpec would not accept less than 50

percent control of the districts.

Sirivudh denied rumors that Funcinpec

risked deep internal division due to his October resignation as foreign minister

and ex-Finance Minister Sam Rainsy's continuing harsh criticism about corruption

and lack of transparency in contracts between the government and foreign

firms.

"I'd like to say that Funcinpec is not divided. Funcinpec debates

very democratically," Sirivudh told reporters at the celebration of his party's

anniversary on Feb 28.

He said it was better if one party could debate

and discuss its internal problems rather than to use tanks to launch coup

d'état. He was referring to the CPP, who stopped a coup d'état by some of its

members in July last year.

"The other party looks like very united, but

they use tanks to make coup d'état...It seems there are CPP-1 and CPP-2, you

know Sin Song, Sin Sen, Prince Chakrapong are CPP," he said.

However, he

admitted: "The problem is not the weakness of the CPP, I think the weakness of

Funcinpec must be resolved."

"We need more human resources, coordination

and we need to get to the hearts of the people," he said.

Asked whether

King Norodom Sihanouk ever asked him to form a new political party, he replied:

"No. We need a strong Funcinpec and we must be very accountable."

He said

his worry was how to achieve full national reconciliation with the Khmer Rouge,

a main stumbling block to full stability and development of Cambodia. Funcinpec

will maintain an open-door policy with the outlawed group, if they lay down

their weapons, return to society and form a political party to take part in the

next election, as requested by King Sihanouk.

"It does not mean that we

ask Pol Pot, Ieng Sary to come. I think they, as criminals, must not be accepted

by our national community," he said.

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