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Split widens as Funcinpec hierarchs trade verbal blows

Split widens as Funcinpec hierarchs trade verbal blows

Funcinpec Senior Minister Serei Kosal has accused party Secretary-General Nhiek Bun

Chhay of trying to topple the party's President, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, by attempting

to create a rift inside the floundering royalist party.

At a news conference on June 6, Bun Chhay named party members who he said planned

to break away from Funcinpec and form a new political party to be called the Samdech

Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh Party with Ranariddh's image as its logo.

But Bun Chhay also said Ranariddh has denied any intention of forming a new political

party.

Bun Chhay accused Kosal, Prince Norodom Chakrapong and Ranariddh's spokesman Chea

Chanboribo of planning to break away from the Funcinpec. However Kosal denied the

allegation and said it was a fabrication by Bun Chhay.

"I think the allegation made by Nhiek Bun Chhay was a political pretext to bring

together his loyalist members and [further] his ambition to take over as Funcinpec

President," Kosal told the Post on June 13.

Kosal said tensions within Funcinpec were worsening and called on Bun Chhay to resign

within 24 hours.

"Bun Chhay is illegally holding his position as secretary general of Funcinpec

when the members of the party's steering committee have not yet approved him,"

Kosal said.

Chakrapong has said he will sue Bun Chhay for defamation for alleging he was involved

in planning a breakaway party.

Chakrapong refused to talk to the Post, saying he did not want to repeat the same

statement.

Bun Chhay was cheerfully dismissive of their comments.

"We are not worried, and we are happy and will celebrate for those individuals

who break away from Funcinpec to form another political party," Bun Chhay said.

"They were small party members who are disappointed in my leadership because

they lost their benefits."

"We are not protecting those individuals who created a rift in the party and

caused Funcinpec to lose popularity," Bun Chhay said.

An anonymous statement issued on May 29 by the "Former Funcinpec Resistance

for the Monarchy" appealed to Ranariddh to allow his name to be used for a new

political party.

The statement, sent from the Ministry of Information, accused Bun Chhay, Funcinpec

Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng, and Funcinpec parliamentarian Ly Thuch

of being the puppets of Prime Minister Hun Sen of the ruling Cambodian People's Party

(CPP).

Kosal said Funcinpec's internal rift had become a public affair because the party

had two spokesmen - Nouv Sovathero was the spokesman appointed by Bun Chhay, while

Chea Chanboribo was Ranariddh's spokesman.

"One party has two spokesmen offering different political points of view,"

Kosal said. "The spokesman appointed by the new party Secretary General, Nhiek

Bun Chhay, is always speaking against the ideas of the President."

Bun Chhay said the removal of about 50 Funcinpec provincial governors and deputy

governors had adversely affected the mood of the party membership. But he said their

removal had been a government reform, not a Funcinpec action.

Ranariddh has been absent from Cambodia for three months. On March 14 he went to

France where he teaches at a law school, a Funcinpec official said.

Several Funcinpec officials contacted by the Post said they did not know when he

would return to Cambodia.

Bun Chhay visited China from May 28 to 31 to strengthen the relationship and cooperation

between Funcinpec and the Chinese Communist Party, according to a press release issued

by Funcinpec on May 26.

"We have supported one China, and China has supported the political cooperation

between Funcinpec and the CPP," Bun Chhay said.

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