Alliance Says King Helped Clarify Stance

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party on Wednesday praised the outcome of a meeting at the Royal Palace the night before, during which King Noro­­dom Sihanouk denied he had pres­sured them to accept Prime Minister Hun Sen as the next premier.

“It was a perfect outcome,” Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou said.

He said the meeting gave Fun­cin­pec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Dem­o­crats an opportunity to clarify its position that it wanted a tripartite government, but one without Hun Sen as prime minister.

“Now there is no misunderstanding,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy added.

The three parties were summoned to the Royal Palace on Tues­day evening, after a Fun­cinpec official told The Cambodia Daily that the Alliance had been unfairly pres­sured into an agreement over the formation of the new government.

The agreement, which was outlined in a joint communique hand­written by the King on Nov 5, stated that the parties would create a tripartite government and would support the CPP’s right to nominate whomever it wished as candidate for prime minister.

But in the days following, the Alliance said that the formation of a tripartite government depended on the new government’s policies, as well as several other conditions.

The Alliance added that it could not guarantee that Hun Sen, the CPP’s candidate, would receive the two-thirds majority vote required from the National Assembly to appoint him prime minister.

The Alliance’s backpedaling prompted the King to warn in a statement earlier this week that anyone who violated the spirit of the Nov 5 agreement would be held accountable.

During Tuesday’s meeting, which was broadcast on state-run TVK, King Sihanouk denied he had forced a deal and said he did not tell the Alliance to accept Hun Sen as prime minister.

“I only said that you stop rejecting Samdech Hun Sen. You let CPP propose whomever they wish,” King Sihanouk said. “It is up to the National Assembly.”

The King asked Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Noro­dom Sirivudh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy to answer as to whether he had pressured them into signing the joint communique that outlined the agreement.

Both leaders said they had not been forced. Sam Rainsy blamed The Cambodia Daily, saying, “What the foreign newspaper said distorts the facts.”

Interviewed on Wednesday, Sam Rainsy said, “Actually, it is the person that you (The Cam­bodia Daily) quoted that distorted the facts. You played a role in publishing the view of that person.

“The substance of what was quoted was not quite factual. It was an interpretation…. You did not distort the facts directly or intentionally.”

Soy Sopheap, a member of the Cambo­dian Club of Journalists’ board of directors, criticized politicians for blaming those who report their statements.

“We are sorry that our journalists face this injustice repeatedly,” he said.

Kao Kim Hourn, executive di­rect­or of the Cambodian Insti­tute for Cooperation and Peace, said that while Tuesday’s meeting “clarified the political air,” it exposed the possibility that a resolution to the political dispute could still be a long way away.

“There is still a lot of gaps in the negotiations,” he said.

Although Sam Rainsy raised the issue of Hun Sen’s premiership at the meeting Tuesday, no mention was made as to his party’s acceptance of a three-party government.

He said Wednesday that it was implicit in the discussions that his party may still not accept such a government.

“I think the King understands,” he said. “We listen to the King’s guidance. He gave us a framework…. It would not be appropriate to say it is a failure, so we need to try first and that’s what we’re going to do.”

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanha­rith said that he expected that negotiations between the three parties would begin in earnest soon, adding that politicians were expected to adhere to the agreement.

“As gentlemen, you must keep your promises. This is more than a gentleman’s agreement,” he said. (Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

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