Prince Asks F’pec to Choose NA Positions or Gov’t Posts Jobs Posts

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh has asked that all members of the party’s steering committee voluntarily resign from it and party members who hold both government posts and National Assembly seats chose one or the other.

The party’s secretary-general, Tol Lah, and steering committee member Ahmad Yahya on Wed­nesday confirmed the request.

Diplomats and analysts said the move is upsetting key party officials.

Tol Lah emphasized that Prince Ranariddh is not forcing people to leave the 33-member steering committee, which sets party policies, but rather asking them to step down.

He also said most party officials have too many duties, including serving in the National Assembly and in government posts.

“We want them to be effective in their work,” Tol Lah said. “We want to keep people in one clear position. Anyone who is in the parliament should stay there. Anyone who is in the government should be only in the government.”

Several senior members of the party, including Tol Lah, who is education minister, and the prince, were exempted from leaving the parliament, Tol Lah said.

Other top party members were reluctant to reveal why the re­quest had been made.

“Ask the prince,” Funcinpec stalwart Ahmad Yahya said by telephone Wednesday night, hours after he had signed a pledge to give up his National Assembly seat to retain his new position as Public Works and Transport secretary of state.

He said he would soon resign from the steering committee.

“Frankly, I am unhappy be­cause I spent a lot of money and I thought my contribution to the election campaign would be rewarded with a place in parliament and in the Cabinet,” Ahmad Yahya said. “But I belong to the party, and if the boss has decided, I have to follow his instructions.”

Information Minister Lu Lay­sreng said he resigned from the steering committee Wednesday. “I want to resign,” he said. “It gives time for the younger generation to learn to work.”

New Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said Wednes­day that she had given up her Assembly seat and would keep her portfolio.

An Asian diplomat said Wed­nesday that Prince Ranariddh’s request reflects “internal problems” within the party, but predicted the divisions would be temporary and would be re­solved soon.

A Western diplomat agreed there were problems within the influential steering committee, but said party members were discussing possible compromises.

In the last government, the National Assembly was often unable to meet because not enough parliamentarians showed up to make the quorum needed to work.

Often cited by members as an excuse was the high number of Funcinpec and the CPP lawmakers who also held top government posts.

(Additional reporting by Chris Decherd)

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