Do not associate King Father Norodom Sihanouk with your political party – unless, of course, you want to bring disgrace to his name when you lose, Prime Minister Hun Sen told opposition parties yesterday.
Speaking to an audience of laymen and nuns at a ceremony on Koh Pich yesterday, the premier gave a strong warning to any political parties attempting to use the retired king’s name as part of their commune election campaign propaganda.
“Taking the title of the retired King Norodom Sihanouk means a challenge between Hun Sen and the king, and when [those political parties] lose in the election, it affects the king’s reputation,” Hun Sen said.
“On the other hand, being a ‘royalist’ is a common possession – it does not belong to any party and it is not the possession of any royal monarchy, and if it belongs to the royal monarchy exclusively, it will be completely destroyed,” he said.
He went on to criticise Funcinpec, the Paris Peace Accords-era party once led by the King Father himself, of being a one-trick pony.
“Since the existence of Funcinpec, they have considered themselves as royalists and always draw on this to draw election votes,” Hun Sen said.
The premier further touted the CPP as the only true party defending the royal family, and pointed to the King Father’s anointment of the party’s leadership trinity with the title “Samdech” – meaning king.
“If they want to destroy royalism, they have to pass Hun Sen’s body and the King Father and the Queen Mother have clearly known about the commitment of the government and CPP in protecting the royals,” Hun Sen said in his impassioned speech.
He pointed out that as Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranarridh Party combined only held four seats in the National Assembly, they clearly exhibited an inability to even protect themselves, leaving the CPP as the true defenders of royalism.
“Don’t use the reputation of the King Father too long; it has been used since Funcinpec was formed, now it is enough,” he said.
Pen Sanghar, a spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which is headed by the King Father’s son Norodom Ranariddh, rejected the premier’s allegation that it used the former king’s name for propaganda purposes.
The party has called itself a royalist and “Sihanoukist” party because those terms are associated with social advancements and achievements of Sihanouk’s reign.
“We did not choose the name of the king for political interests, and we have never suggested voting for the Norodom Ranariddh Party was a vote for the King Father,” Pen Sanghar said.
Tum Sombol, a spokesman for Funcipec, said that while his was a royalist party, it never used particular individuals’ names to propagandise.
“Everybody knows who the founder of Funcipec is [Former King Norodom Sihanouk], so there is no need to talk about that,” he said.
The campaign season for the upcoming June 3 commune elections officially starts Friday.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]