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Prince cleans out eight "disloyalists"

Prince cleans out eight "disloyalists"



FUNCINPEC Assembly member Kann Man has committed two great political sins: he left leader Hun Sen to join the opposition and subsequently went against his new chief Prince Ranariddh. The question of whether he is pardonable on either account may be the most important of his life.

One hour before Funcinpec handed in its candidate list to the National Electoral Commission on May 7, the party's Kandal representative was told he was one of eight Funcinpec Assembly members whom Ranariddh had eliminated from the party slate at the last minute.

The ousting of Kann Man, which he still hopes can be altered before the list is cemented on June 12, leaves him adrift. It is too late for him to join another party.

Kann Man sinned against Funcinpec by signing a petition early this year which, if passed, would ban Royals from politics unless they ditch their Royal titles.

"People [like Man] proposed a law forbidding Ranariddh from politics. If they don't want Ranariddh in politics, why do they want to be one of Ranariddh's candidates for the Assembly?" said one high-ranking Funcinpec official. "Those people have a problem... When Ranariddh campaigns he will introduce his candidates to the audience... [So] we asked they not be the candidates for this year."

In mulling over his options, Man said he had spoken to the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party - neither of which appeared interested in taking him on. "Until now, I have not joined another party. I am still waiting for [Ranariddh's] final decision," he said.

"When the list was submitted the party president deleted my name. I am very sorry about this because earlier Funcinpec had good political guidelines, it had democracy. He annulled my name after the steering committee had already decided, which means the president is a tyrannical decision-maker," he said.

Ironically, many of those in Funcinpec, now said to be faithful to the Prince, have repeatedly acknowledged Ranariddh's shortcomings, including a "tyrannical" style which sparked the anti-Royalist petition in the first place.

"The party president can still change his mind and agree with the steering committee. But if he does not, it is regrettable because this kind of thing might happen to others as well," Man said.

Kann Man understands his patrons always seem to doubt him. He was Hun Sen's personal secretary from 1981-1985 and a high ranking civil servant in the Foreign Affairs Ministry till 1990.

In 1990, he committed his first political sin by becoming a founding member of the opposition Liberal Social Democrats with Ung Phan -an opposition so far ahead of its time that he along with others were jailed for 17 months without ever standing before a judge.

After his release, he cemented his betrayal of the CPP by joining Funcinpec along with Ung Phan and others in July 1992, later becoming the Assembly member for Kandal, the province where Hun Sen spends most of his time.

When Ung Phan led a schism in Funcinpec last year, publicly thrashing Ranariddh for poor leadership and claiming that nearly half the party's members supported ousting Ranariddh as chief, many observers and members of Funcinpec just assumed Man would follow, or perhaps slink back to his old boss, Hun Sen.

Fearing for his life during a tense week when soldiers were reportedly going to the homes of Assembly members to encourage them to join the split, Man remained with Funcinpec.

While he didn't follow so many others into exile following the coup - something now taken as the ultimate sign of loyalty among the Prince's inner circle of dual nationals - Man did reaffirm his allegiance to the Prince after his March 30 return to Phnom Penh. Aside from the contentious petition, he is one of the few who remained loyal to Ranariddh despite the long-standing doubts about his fidelity within the party.

Asked about the petition, Man said that all 27 Assembly members "retreated from their stance soon after the petition arrived at the Assembly". He did not go into detail about why he signed the petition in the first place.

If he is left without a party or a patron, he may find Cambodia's political outlands can be a dangerous place for a man who some see as having betrayed the two most powerful political forces. "I am worried about Kann Man after the elections. He has no patron," one party member said. "Anything can happen to someone like that."

Kann Man is philosophical: "I am comfortable with my conscience. As a nationalist, whatever I do is in the interest of the nation."

He is also diplomatic about the coming elections. "I do not care who wins the coming election, which party or politician. If there is any duty for me to do, I will do it."

As he waits to find out if his most recent "mistake" will cost him the protection of his most recent political patron Ranariddh, he is mulling his loyalties. As many others have been doing for a long time.


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