Royalist rifts appear over stamp usage

Nhek Bun Chhay
Nhek Bun Chhay attends a party congress last month in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Royalist rifts appear over stamp usage

A series of letters issued over the weekend to Funcipec’s provincial leadership seemed to expose rifts in the royalist party’s upper ranks after the return of newly reinstated party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

New Funcinpec executive secretary general Say Hak issued a written rebuke to former party secretary general and current second deputy president Nhek Bun Chhay, accusing him of improperly using the official party seal – a right he maintains is reserved for the party president.

In letters sent on Friday, Hak called on the provincial party chapters’ executive presidents to disregard any documents issued by Bun Chhay bearing the party’s official seal, as Ranariddh had not transferred to him the right to use it in the first place.

“His Excellency Nhek Bun Chhay, second deputy president of the party, took the stamp of the party to use on invitation letters and other letters, [which] cannot be considered as official letters,” Say Hak wrote.

Ranariddh, he added, had been officially recognised as the head of the party by the Ministry of Interior, a fact confirmed by ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak.

Since the initial ouster of Ranariddh from the party in 2006, Bun Chhay has wielded considerable influence as secretary general of Funcinpec, despite never officially being its leader.

Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment yesterday, but the party’s secretariat, which he controlled as secretary general, issued its own letter on Saturday, maintaining that since the party’s structure didn’t include an executive secretary general, Hak didn’t technically possess a position in the party.

“Colleague Say Hak is abusing the condition of the Funcinpec party and its leaders,” the letter reads.

Responding to the letter yesterday, Hak said he had no personal problem with Bun Chhay, but again criticised his use of the party stamp without Ranariddh’s approval, and maintained that he served in his capacity as executive secretary general at the prince’s appointment.

Political analyst Chea Vannath said yesterday that the open criticism of Bun Chhay appeared to be an attempt by Ranariddh to reassert his control over the party, but said that such infighting showed “there’s no real leadership”.

“Any good leader needs to mobilise the resources around him or her, not compete for power, so it’s not a good sign,” she said, adding that it would project a better image for the party if leaders “agree together and not show this division”.

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