As the 2022 Commune Council elections approach, Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party and the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) led by Nhek Bun Chhay have agreed to merge and plan to hold a congress before the poll.

At a press conference on September 22, KNUP president Nhek Bun Chhay said the merger came after the two sides negotiated several times and resolved internal issues.

“We have discussed a number of issues, with Funcinpec and the KNUP agreeing on a protocol on the unification of the two parties into a single Funcinpec party. We also agreed on a policy for participation in the commune council elections in 2022 and general election in 2023. The regulation and bylaws have already been agreed,” Bun Chhay said.

He added that after the merger, the party will adopt the Funcinpec Party name and logo, with Prince Ranariddh remaining as party president, without any changes.

“It’s not like some people said that I want to be president. It is not true because we have already agreed on both the party name and logo, and more will be revealed at the upcoming congress,” he said.

Bun Chhay called on the public and royalists to support and vote for this united Funcinpec party.

“In the 2022 and 2023 elections, we hope to win seats in the National Assembly, because in the commune council alone KNUP has almost 300 people and Funcinpec has 400,” he said.

Funcinpec party spokesman Phan Sethy said the two parties had planned to hold a congress in March 2021. But due to internal problems combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, the congress was delayed until now.

“We are preparing for the congress as soon as possible to show our intentions and gather support. We will work to save Funcinpec and recover the situation to better organise Funcinpec.

“We have to restructure the party and we will convene a meeting of the 24 provincial executive committees to inform them on Funcinpec’s situation,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said if the unification of the parties comes from genuine will, it would become a political force. But if internal disputes persist, the two parties will split again one day.

“The history of the two parties is a lot of unification and separation, and the way of unity does not seem to be very strong. However, we think it would be a good sign if that unity really took place, with strong will from both party members,” he said.

“We do not think we can expect much support because the Cambodian people, through past election results, seem to have lost faith in Funcinpec party. But hopefully that unity will come from the will and new policies and strategies to garner support again,” he said.