Prince Norodom Ranariddh has announced the formation of a youth group for the royalist party Funcinpec, in hopes of finding more support among a new demographic.
Funcinpec, once the chief rival of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, has fallen to near irrelevance over the past two decades. In forming the Cambodian Royalist Youth Movement, the prince is following a trend by both the ruling party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
“The future of the royalist Funcinpec is in the hands of the royalist youth,” the prince said in an announcement to supporters on Saturday. In a speech that offered little new political goals or platforms, Prince Ranariddh, who is 71, touted the successful leadership of his father, late King Norodom Sihanouk. He later told VOA Khmer he hoped the youth movement would help the party win back seats in the National Assembly.
The Youth Movement includes newly elected leaders for Phnom Penh and the 24 provinces. Soung Saviet, head of the organization, vowed to support the leadership of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, to protect the constitutional monarchy. “I’m committed 100 percent to following any advice offered by the prince,” he said.
Political analysts say there is little hope Funcinpec will regain the top position it once held, winning the country’s first post-war election, but losing power to a 1997 coup.
Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum, said there is little to suggest the party will find enough support to challenge the ruling party, or the opposition’s appeal to the youth. That said, if the Rescue Party’s leadership doesn’t hold together, a third party could find a way in, he said. “For now, I have not seen any third party that could take the lead and get support, especially not the prince,” Ou Virak said. “It is likely that they have no chance.”