Prince Thomico, accompanied by several leaders of small and fringe political parties, is giving a press conference about the formation of the Sampoan Sangkum Cheat Niyum (Alliance of the national community), which is not yet a full fledge political party. (Photo: Chamnap, Koh Santepheap newspaper)
Friday, July 28, 2006
By Yun Samean and Douglas Gillison
THE CAMBODIA DAILY
Udong mountain, Kandal province - Rather than announce the formation of his new party as scheduled Thursday, Prince Sisowath Thomico formed an alliance with four little-known political groups, which jointly accused Cambodia's current leaders of leading Cambodians into "slavery."
After Buddhist prayer ceremonies at the summit of Udong Mountain Thursday morning,
Prince Thomico and representatives of the groups announced the launch of the Sangkum Cheat Niyum, or "national community," alliance—a name that echoes that of retired King Norodom Sihanouk's pre-civil war governments, Sangkum Reastr Niyum.
The participants, seated at two tables at the summit of the heavily symbolic Udong Mountain, the country's former royal capital and last resting place of many Khmer kings, signed a document that proclaimed Prince Thomico the new movement's leader and stated that its political objective is to replace Cambodia's current leadership.
"I urge political parties, nationalists and royalists, to offer freedom and justice to serve the people," the prince told dozens of assembled reporters. "We will give them more time to join the alliance."
Representatives of the ultra-nationalist Khmer Front Party, the unknown Angkor Empire Party, the fringe Khmer United Party and the former Khmer People's National Liberation Front all expressed allegiance to Prince Thomico and criticized the current government. "Cambodia has never been in darkness like this," declared Khieu Rada, president of the KUP. "We are in decline," he said, adding that political infighting and foreign interference have led to national disharmony.
Khmer Front Party President Suth Dina told reporters that the KFPs ideals would live on in the new alliance. "The Khmer Front Party is continuing its political platform in confronting three enemies, Vietnamese invasion, genocide and corruption," he said.
To allow other parties more time to join forces with him, the formation of a new political party, and the unveiling of an official name, have been delayed until sometime prior to the commune elections in 2007, Prince Thomico said.
"We decided not to form the party yet since the alliance is not yet complete," the prince said.
Last month, Prince Thomico announced his intention to form a new party based on the ideology of Norodom Sihanouk. The retired King, however, has released a torrent of criticism about the project.
Prince Thomico acknowledged Norodom Sihanouk's opposition Thursday, calling it "fatherly advice."
The prince also revealed the last-minute defection from the alliance of the fledgling People Power Party, which was nevertheless listed on statements distributed to reporters.
The prince said he wished PPP leader Kann Virak well but declined further comment.
Kann Virak said that at the 11th-hour he decided the new party was a waste of time and money. "[His party] has no real structure," he said. "It is a waste of money."
Sam Rainsy said he felt Prince Thomico was not a credible political leader. He also compared the new alliance to a creature from Khmer mythology known as an "Ap," which he described as a disembodied head. "They have no body, they have no limbs," Sam Rainsy scoffed. "They have a president a vice president but they have no members."
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he welcomed the arrival of a new political party as it would add "spice" to the "soup" of Cambodia's politics.
However, his personal appraisal of the prince's fortunes was grim. The prince's new venture could be a "Mission: Impossible," he quipped, though he added that Prince Thomico might not totally fit the bill.
"I don't think he looks like Tom Cruise," he added.