The royalist Funcinpec and the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) are a step closer to merging after their top leaders met to review their respective party compositions and discuss statutes as well as internal regulations.
Funcinpec’s newly appointed spokesman Phan Sothy told The Post on Thursday that if the merger goes ahead, the two parties will function under the name Funcinpec.
Sothy said Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh and KNUP head Nhek Bun Chhay met on Wednesday to work out the details.
During the meeting, he said the prince and Bun Chhay focused mainly on unification between the two parties’ supporters and the creation of a committee made up of three members from each party.
The committee, he said, is formed to review statutes and internal regulations before the merger to avoid conflicting issues that led to their last “divorce” in 2016.
Bun Chhay was formerly a senior official of the Funcinpec, which was then led by Prince Ranariddh.
After their first breakup in 2006, Prince Ranariddh formed a new party named after himself while Bun Chhay continued to lead Funcinpec.
Two years after losing the 2013 national elections, the prince and Bun Chhay reunited, with the former reinstated as Funcinpec president. But in 2016, Bun Chhay defected from Funcinpec to form the KNUP.
Sothy said the two sides were working to finalise details. “Both parties have agreed to set up a technical team or technical committee to prepare legal documents for this merger.
“The KNUP has sent three candidates, but Funcinpec has not nominated anyone yet. We are still preparing a composition for this merger,” he said.
KNUP president Bun Chhay hung up on a reporter when contacted for comment on Thursday. But he was previously quoted by Rasmei Kampuchea Daily as saying on Wednesday that his meeting with the prince touched on unification.
“This latest merger, if it goes through, will be different from the previous three. This time we are following a five-point principle. First, we only induct those who are loyal to the party and Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
“Second, we select only those who are qualified and have leadership experience. Third and fourth, we consider their popularity and performance. Lastly, we will only select those who support the merger as some do not want us to do so.
“The statute and internal regulations must also follow democratic principles so that the party can be led in such a manner with no partisanship, nepotism and corruption,” he said.
Bun Chhay pointed out that both parties agreed to reinstate Prince Ranariddh as Funcinpec president.
Political analyst Em Sovannara said Prince Ranariddh’s popularity would be a boon to the new merger, though he said the prince might not be able to lead the party for long considering his poor health.
He was also sceptical that the merger would last as the prince had already handed over control to his son.
“If the prince’s son starts to be more active in politics and the people know him better in the absence of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, he can hopefully restore Funcinpec’s popularity,” he said.