Prince Norodom Ranariddh is making a grand return to Cambodian politics with a new party pledging, by its title at least, to bring unity to the Kingdom.
Or so say rumours flying around Funcinpec, the royalist party with which the now-70-year-old won the 1993 election, and a few local media reports that emerged last night.
A high-ranking official at the Ministry of Interior has told the Post that a group called the National Unity Party has asked to be registered as a new political party. A number of Funcinpec officials confirmed they heard about the party and said they believe it is led by the prince.
“I just heard the information that there is a party [that has submitted a request] called the National Unity Party, but I do not know who has formed this party,” the Interior Ministry official, who declined to be named, said, adding he has yet to see the party list.
“I just heard this morning. The officials in the secretariat told me that [they] have seen a [National Unity Party] that has requested to be recognised.”
Nhek Bun Chhay, secretary-general of Funcinpec, confirmed yesterday that he had heard Ranariddh had formed a new party with that name, though he did not know further details. Two other Funcinpec officials who declined to be named said the same.
Ranariddh’s cabinet chief, Noranarith Anandayath, declined to comment yesterday, while the prince himself could not be reached for comment.
National Election Committee secretary-general Tep Nytha said though he had not heard of the new party, the NEC would welcome the National Unity Party if it officially registers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said, however, that the ministry had not received a registration request from a National Unity Party.
Ranariddh, second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, served as first prime minister from 1993 to 1997 until he was ousted in a coup by then second prime minister Hun Sen.
After being toppled from Funcinpec in 2006, allegedly by Bun Chhay, Ranariddh formed an eponymous party that won two seats in the 2008 election. He quit politics in 2012 and is now president of the Supreme Privy Council to King Norodom Sihamoni.