Splinter Group May Return to Funcinpec Fold

An official of Reastr Niyum Party—whose key members split from Funcinpec after the factional fighting of July 1997—said the party will consider rejoining Funcinpec at its annual congress Saturday.

“We will focus on the future of Reastr Niyum….I’m sure it includes a discussion on reuniting with Funcinpec,” said Reastr Niyum Vice President Nady Tan. The congress, he said, will be held at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh.

Reacting to the statement, Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah said Thursday that he strongly would consider welcoming back the party, which was formed by former first prime minister Ung Huot.

“People might have different views, but that doesn’t stop us from reuniting and working together,” he said.

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh expelled the splinter group in anger after they decided to remain in Phnom Penh to work with his CPP rivals after the July 1997 fighting. The expulsion came as Ung Huot was scheduled to replace the prince as first prime minister.

But the move was ignored by the National Assembly, and Ung Huot held the first prime minister position until last year’s national elections.

After the various Funcinpec factions failed to resolve their differences, Ung Huot formed Reastr Niyum in early 1998 for the purpose of the elections. But the party failed to win any seats.

According to Reastr Niyum rules, party President Ung Huot will step down Saturday and a new election will be held, Nady Tan said. But he noted that Ung Huot immediately could be re-elected.

“I will not seek to fill his shoes,” Nady Tan said.

Since its second-place showing in the July 1998 polls, Funcinpec has adopted a new strategy of openness, Tol Lah said. Leaders are targeting intellectuals, foreigners, young people and parties that in the past might have split from Funcinpec.

“Anyone who would like to join us—if they express the desire to join our family, we will take that into consideration.” He said a request by Reastr Niyum to join the party would be considered during its steering committee’s biweekly meeting.

National Assembly member Dien Del, whose 20-year-old Khmer People’s National Libera­tion Front party joined Funcinpec before last year’s elections, said anything is possible.

“The door is open,” said Dien Del, who once helped lead the resistance to the Hanoi government of the 1980s. “The prince wants it that way.”

 

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