Clinking champagne glasses, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and dissident leader Oung Phan
toasted the merger of their two political parties in a public ceremony at Ranariddh's
residence in Phnom Penh on July 17.
Under an agreement signed between the two groups, Phan's party-the Liberal Social
Democratic Party-will dissolve into FUNCINPEC, Ranariddh's faction.
Phan, 41-formerly minister of transport in the Hun Sen government-was imprisoned
along with seven other government officials in May 1990 for attempting to launch
a pro-democracy party.
Released 17 months later after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, Phan's party
began to regroup earlier this year in preparation for the 1993 general elections.
But after drive-by gunmen made an attempt on Phan's life in January, and another
member, Yang Horn, died under questionable circumstances in March, the party drastically
curtailed its public activities.
Introducing Phan as his "eminent collaborator," Ranariddh said: "Oung
Phan was the first Cambodian-even before the arrival of UNTAC-who dared to quit a
communist party and set up a liberal party. He has my admiration."
Ranariddh said he expects that Phan will accompany him to meetings of the Supreme
National Council and act as the prince's "special advisor" on human rights.
Phan denied to comment on the number of potential voters his party brings to FUNCINPEC,
which Ranariddh said already has 60,000 members.
- Sara Colm