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Royalist Faction May Court Norodom Ranariddh Party

The Front Sangkum Jatiniyum party will hold a congress this weekend to decide whether its 5,000 members should join the Norodom Ranariddh Party, officials said Thursday.

The FSJ, headed by Prince Sisowath Thomico, has royalist leanings, and several of its members have reportedly been offered spots in the party headed by Norodom Ranariddh, a political figure living in exile after he was found guilty in absentia on charges related to embezzlement.

Prince Thomico will become NRP vice president, and South Dina could be given an undersecretary position, officials said.

South Dina said the FSJ will retain its name but will conduct political activities.

The country is headed for national elections next year—in polls that may see two competing opposition parties and two royalist parties.

Prince Ranariddh quit Funcinpec in the wake of embezzlement allegations, but started his self-named party prior to this year's commune elections.

The ruling CPP won those elections handily, and Prime Minister Hun Sen said afterward he planned to keep Funcinpec as the party's coalition party. Following that promise, he fired a Funcinpec Minister of Tourism and replaced him with a CPP member.