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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06PHNOMPENH839 2006-05-03 07:30:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Phnom Penh
Cable title:  

CAMBODIAN ROYALIST PARTY IN TURMOIL -- BUT

Tags:   PGOV KDEM CB 
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VZCZCXRO1897
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0839/01 1230730
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 030730Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6573
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1420
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM  PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000839 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS; GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIAN ROYALIST PARTY IN TURMOIL -- BUT
STAGGERS ON

Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Margaret B. McKean, Reason: 1.5 (b) and
(d)



1. (C) Summary. Conversations with FUNCINPEC royal family
members and loyalists suggest that some royals, including
FUNCINPEC leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, are discussing the
possibility of forming a new political party. Former
Co-Minister of Interior Prince Norodom Sirivudh and Deputy PM
Lu Lay Sreng, however, say such talk is premature. Sirivudh
notes that FUNCINPEC has been hijacked by the CPP, and refers
to the party as "HUNSENPEC." King father Norodom Sihanouk
will return before the end of May, according to Prince
Sisowath Thomico. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen has
dismissed more FUNCINPEC officials, which Sirivudh claims is
aimed more at removing possible obstacles to the
Cambodia-Vietnam border agreement than the political
dismantlement of FUNCINPEC within the coalition government.
End Summary.

A New FUNCINPEC?


--------------------------





2. (C) Serei Kosal, a senior FUNCINPEC official, told the
Embassy in late April that upon his return to Cambodia in
May, Prince Norodom Ranariddh will assess the functioning of
FUNCINPEC's permanent committee, Secretary General Nhek Bun
Chhay's leadership, and FUNCINPEC party cadre satisfaction
with the party and its handling of recent political
developments. Depending on Ranariddh's findings, the
FUNCINPEC leader may insist on a reorganization of the party.
If FUNCINPEC Secretary General Nhek Bun Chhay disagrees,
Serei Kosal said that Ranariddh may try to form a new party.
Kosal told us that based on FUNCINPEC's statutes, the
President of the party has the right to dissolve the party.
Kosal added that he and other FUNCINPEC officials suspect
that Nhek Bun Chhay is leading the party in the wrong
direction according to instructions from the CPP. Kosal said
that Ranariddh would include Princess Norodom Vacheara and
Prince Norodom Chakrapong in important roles in any new
royalist party, but Prince Norodom Sirivudh would likely be
ignored as he had been problematic while serving in the
government. FUNCINPEC DPM Lu Lay Sreng told us Serei Kosal
was sending up a trial balloon on the idea of a new party,
but that the idea was premature.



3. (C) According to Serei Kosal, members of the royal
family advocating a new royalist party would like to see
FUNCINPEC returned to the leadership of its original founder,
the retired King Norodom Sihanouk. However, Prince Sisowath
Thomico, secretary to former King Sihanouk, told us on April
26 that Sihanouk would not become involved in party politics
again in Cambodia. Thomico noted that in order to maintain
his role as a figure of national reconciliation, it is
important that the former king remain above the political
fray -- no matter how much it affects his own party or his
family. Thomico added that Sihanouk has launched three
political movements -- and been betrayed by followers in each
one of his endeavors. The latest political party involving
Sihanouk was the formation of FUNCINPEC, and Thomico said the
former king blames his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, for
betraying the party's ideals and his father wishes in
governing the party.



4. (U) Thomico said that Sihanouk would return to Cambodia
before the end of May, and that he had accompanied the king
father to North Korea for a recent visit. While in North
Korea, Thomico assisted Sihanouk in two film projects: a
documentary about North Korea that was shown on Cambodian
television, and a twelve-minute sketch based on an interview
with Princess Vacheara, entitled, "Who Does Not Have a
Mistress?" The short film is a rebuttal to the Prime
Minister's attack on FUNCINPEC officials for having
mistresses, said Thomico, who considers extramarital affairs
a normal part of Cambodian society and not the exclusive
weakness of FUNCINPEC members.

Sirivudh's Take on FUNCINPEC's Reversal of Fortune


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (C) Prince Norodom Sirivudh, former Co-Minister of
Defense and ex-Secretary General of FUNCINPEC, met with
Charge and A/DCM on May 2, and outlined the five demands of
Hun Sen to Prince Ranariddh in the lead up to the ousting of
FUNCINPEC from the coalition government. First, Hun Sen
demanded that Sirivudh be removed from the government as well
as any leading role within FUNCINPEC. Second, the PM
insisted that Ranariddh's young mistress leave Cambodia.
Third, Hun Sen threatened Ranariddh, saying that the 50 plus

PHNOM PENH 00000839 002 OF 002


one formula meant the FUNCINPEC leader could be removed as
President of the National Assembly at any time; thus,
Ranariddh resigned rather than face the embarrassment of
possible removal. Fourth, Nhek Bun Chhay should be Secretary
General of FUNCINPEC -- no one else, according to the PM.
And finally, Ranariddh must return to Cambodia without his
mistress. Sirivudh said that he advised Ranariddh to call
Hun Sen's bluff on the Prince's possible removal from the
National Assembly, saying that Cambodians would take to the
streets if the PM tried to oust Ranariddh. Ranariddh, he
continued, buckled under the prospect of being voted out of
the National Assembly and decided to resign rather than face
humiliation in the future.



6. (C) Sirivudh said that the Prime Minister's attack on
FUNCINPEC is aimed at quietly removing people who might stand
in the way of the border demarcation between Cambodia and
Vietnam, now that the border agreement has been ratified by
King Sihamoni and the two countries are preparing to put into
place the border posts. Hun Sen wants to ensure that
FUNCINPEC officials from any provinces along the border are
removed over time, and the other FUNCINPEC firings amidst
charges of mistresses, corruption, and incompetence are
merely a smokescreen to mask the real CPP objective.
Sirivudh noted that from a purely practical matter, it made
managerial and financial sense to remove excess government
officials whose duties were duplicated as a result of the
coalition government. In that sense, he agrees with Hun Sen
-- although in his position as a FUNCINPEC loyalist, Sirivudh
said he must publicly object. The CPP attacks on the royal
family members within FUNCINPEC and attempts to hijack the
party under Nhek Bun Chhay are consistent with Hun Sen's
desire to marginalize the monarchy from any role in Cambodian
politics. Sirivudh quipped that FUNCINPEC has become so
aligned with the CPP that he refers to the party as
"HUNSENPEC." He believes that the PM will ensure FUNCINPEC's
survival (albeit on a short leash) in order to create
problems for Sam Rainsy and possibly Kem Sokha. Sirivudh
lamented the inability of Cambodia's democratic politicians
to align themselves against the CPP. He added that his heart
remains with the "Alliance of Democrats" coalition of
FUNCINPEC and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party -- a coalition
which broke apart in 2004. (Note: While there is clearly
considerable truth in Sirivudh's rendition, he also was
spinning the story to depict himself as the aggrieved
democrat. In fact, the use of the term HUNSENPEC long
predates our discussion and first came into vogue during the
2003 electoral campaign when the party was seen as a Hun Sen
puppet. End Note.)



7. (C) The way forward out of the current mess for
FUNCINPEC is not clear, said Sirivudh, who offered no vision
fr attracting new voters to the party of injecting a new
life into the party's appeal to the nostalgia of former
times. He noted that there has been discussion among royal
family members of a new FUNCINPEC, but like DPM Lu Lay Sreng
-- believes that the idea is premature. In the meantime,
FUNCINPEC officials continue to be removed from government
posts. The latest purge has been FUNCINPEC deputy governors,
all of whom have been removed from their positions by
FUNCINPEC Secretary General Nhek Bun Chhay.

COMMENT


--------------------------





8. (C) Cambodia's royal family is a tragedy, comedy and
melodrama all rolled into one that could have provided grist
for at least a half dozen Shakespeare plays. In addition to
the king father's return in May, Prince Ranariddh and
Princess Vacheara are also expected to come back to the
country from France. FUNCINPEC internal party politics
should once again take center stage and provide some
political theater for fans of the royal family. What is
noteworthy, however, is that none of FUNCINPEC's senior
officials has a clear idea of how to return the party to its
former popularity among voters nor outmaneuver the CPP in its
attempts to undermine the royalists. End Comment.
STORELLA