Funcinpec party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh has hand-picked his oldest son to take over the party in his absence as he continues to recover from a fatal car crash that killed his wife.
In a letter dated August 8, Prince Ranariddh’s oldest son, Prince Norodom Chakravuth, was appointed to take the helm of the party while his father continues medical treatment in Thailand, where he has been since the June crash.
While Prince Ranariddh is in Bangkok, Prince Chakravuth is empowered to manage the party, make any necessary decisions, allow people to enter the party or discharge any members. The letter also said that the party secretary-general is now Pech Sodetha.
Prince Chakravuth, born in Phnom Penh in 1970, is Prince Ranariddh’s son with his estranged wife.
Funcinpec spokesman Nhep Bunchin said yesterday the party warmly welcomed Prince Chakravuth as its leader.
“The president decided to appoint Prince Norodom Chakravuth as the party’s acting president and appointed Pech Sodetha as secretary-general,” Mr Bunchin said, noting that Mr Sodetha was the former deputy secretary-general.
“We support the prince’s decision. It is not strange because Prince Chakravuth has also accompanied the president for years,” Mr Bunchin said, noting that Prince Chakravuth was an engineer who studied in France.
“If we talk about politics, he looks young but he works with senior politicians, so he has good experience and he can do the job,” he said.
Mr Bunchin said that according to the party’s rules, the party had to appoint an acting president because Prince Ranariddh has been absent for too long.
Mr Bunchin said that Prince Ranariddh’s health has gradually improved, but doctors have yet to discharge him from the hospital.
“Even though his son takes over, Prince Ranariddh remains the president and we will accompany him forever,” Mr Bunchin said.
He said that Yim Savy, the former secretary-general, will become a vice president.
Mr Savy said that he personally knew Prince Chakravuth since he was a child during the 1980s when his father was part of the resistance movement along the Thai-Cambodian border.
“I think that he is a good person. Even though he has little political experience, he will cooperate and he will work well,” Mr Savy said. “I think that the Funcinpec party could be strong again.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the Funcinpec president should have gone through a list of selected candidates rather than appointing his son.
“Ranariddh’s successor should have been appointed through a meritocratic, competitive process in which his son was one of the candidates,” Mr Mong Hay said.
Funcinpec has become weaker and weaker as it won 43 seats in the 1998 election, 26 seats in 2003 and just two in 2008 before being shutout in the 2013 election.
During last month’s election campaign period, Prince Ranariddh was absent as he underwent medical treatment. Officials acknowledged that the prince’s absence hampered last month’s election showing.
However, the party placed second in terms of nationwide votes during the election, securing 374,510 votes behind the ruling CPP with about 4.8 million.