PRIME Minister Hun Sen will not allow Prince Norodom Ranariddh to retain his position
as President of the National Assembly in the new government, according to notes of
a meeting obtained by the Post.
The meeting was held at Hun Sen's Takhmau residence on July 4 and attended by several
senior CPP figures as well as the representatives of several dozen pro-CPP NGOs (see
story page 6). At the meeting Hun Sen talked about a range of election-related issues.
The Prime Minister told the meeting that if Funcinpec lost the election, Ranariddh
would be ousted from the post. He did not indicate who would take his place, but
there is speculation that the ruling party's honorary president, Heng Samrin, could
be in line for the job in the next government.
"If the CPP wins the election, Hun Sen will be Prime Minister and Ranariddh
will not be head of the Parliament, but simply an ordinary MP," the notes quote
the Prime Minister as saying.
"If the CPP wins, we will let Ranariddh resign ... Ranariddh can be removed
from the party because he has taken out members of his own party [so he too can be
removed]," the notes continued.
But Funcinpec's secretary-general, Prince Norodom Sirivudh, would not entertain speculation
about Ranariddh's future. He told the Post on July 31 that as there were no plans
for a coalition, it was premature to discuss positions within one.
The July 4 meeting notes provide a revealing glimpse into the coalition tensions.
At one point, Hun Sen endorsed the monarchy, but suggested the country follow the
Thai model. Unlike here, none of the Thai king's immediate family is politically
"If we would like to give value to the monarchy, those descendants of the monarch
should not be involved in politics," he said.
And Hun Sen made no secret of his ire at Ranariddh's strident invective against both
him and the CPP in the lead-up to polling day.
One of the people who attended the July 4 meeting was NGO leader and long-time CPP
ally Chea Chamroeun. He explained that there were two reasons why Ranariddh would
lose his position: one, because he had overstepped the boundaries in his criticisms
of Hun Sen; two, because he had not respected the coalition agreement.
One well-placed political analyst consulted by the Post said the move to undermine
Ranariddh would likely be welcomed within the royalist party as a way of solving
its own leadership issues. He added that it would also make the party's founder,
King Norodom Sihanouk, "very happy".
He felt it was likely that either Samrin or current Senate President and CPP Chairman
Chea Sim would replace the Prince in the National Assembly. If Chea Sim got the job,
he said, Samrin would likely take the deputy slot with a co-deputy position offered
to a member of the CPP's new coalition partner, which would still likely be Funcinpec.
"The Prince would move to the Senate presidency and it would be made clear to
him that his political life was over," he surmised. "He could keep his
luxurious life and be prepared to become the next King, but he would be told it is
time to keep quiet."
Under Ranariddh's leadership, Funcinpec has suffered a further slump in support.
Figures available at press time from the National Election Committee (NEC) show the
royalists have lost more than 10 percent of their voters since 1998, and dropped
The party slipped to number two in 1998 after winning the UNTAC monitored election
in 1993. The NEC's figures suggest that it attracted fewer votes than the opposition
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), pushing it into the number three position by vote count.
The Prince's leadership was further compromised last year when members pushing to
oust the unpopular co-Minister of Interior, You Hokry, failed in their bid to replace
him with Khan Savoeun. Ranariddh proved unable-and according to the notes of the
Hun Sen meeting, unwilling-to remove Hokry.