CPP Seizes Control of 2 Ministries

Funcinpec officials accused the CPP Sunday of violating the terms of their current coalition government, after Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed new acting ministers to head the Funcinpec-run ministries of Justice and Educa­tion.

A statement from Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Democrats warned that the CPP’s latest move “could cause negative implication” for negotiations aimed at resolving the more than nine-monthlong political deadlock.

It called on Hun Sen to reverse his decision and urged for talks between CPP and Funcinpec to resume as soon as possible.

“It’s a violation…. We just want to make that clear to the public,” Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou said.

Funcinpec ministers and secretaries of state are scheduled to hold an emergency meeting at the home of their president Prince Norodom Ranariddh this morning, Kassie Neou said. He declined to elaborate on the meeting’s agenda.

Hun Sen assigned CPP’s Im Sethy, secretary of state for the Education Ministry, and Ang Vong Vathana, secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, to take charge of their respective ministries last week, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Sunday.

Im Sethy takes over from Funcinpec’s Education Minister Tol Lah, who died of emphysema last month. Ang Vong Vathana replaces Neav Sithong, Funcin­pec’s Minister of Justice, Khieu Kanharith said.

Khieu Kanharith claimed Neav Sithong had neglected his duties by not attending regular Council of Ministers meetings.

“We need some urgent re­forms,” he said.

But, he said, Hun Sen would scrap the new appointments if Neav Sithong and Pok Than, Funcinpec’s highest-ranking member in the Education Mini­stry, agreed to meet with the prime minister.

Neav Sithong could not be reached for comment Sunday. Pok Than said he had no intention of meeting Hun Sen.

Pok Than said Funcinpec ministers have not attended Council of Ministers meetings because they believe “the caretaker government should not make any major decisions.”

Allegations that Funcinpec officials are neglecting their duties is not true, Pok Than said.

“I don’t understand the reason behind this,” said Pok Than, adding that his official role will remain secretary of state for the Education Ministry.

Political analysts expressed concern over Hun Sen’s ruling Sun­day, calling it a political misstep.

“It’s not just a step back from democracy, it is politically wrong,” said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Develop­ment.

“Right now, it’s a politically chaotic time,” she said. “[The coun­try’s leaders] need to look more at the needs of the Cam­bodian people and work together.”

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the proper procedures for appointing acting ministers is not well-defined.

“The prime minister uses this unclear procedure and as [is] my understanding, they cannot do that,” he said.

Though the prime minister has the right to assign an acting minister when a minister is absent, there are no guidelines for when a minister is still active and in office, as in the case of the Justice Ministry, he said.

Joining the call for a quick end to the political deadlock, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a letter dated April 28 to opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

“I fully share the deep concerns expressed by His Majesty King [Norodom] Sihanouk over the long delay in establishing a new government as well as the inability of the new National Assembly to address the many important pending issues, including ratification of the Agreement on the Khmer Rouge trials,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile Sunday, the CPP was set to issue a letter to Funcinpec, reminding the royalists of a media truce between the two parties, Khieu Kanharith said.

Talks between the parties were temporarily halted last week after the CPP accused Ta Prohm radio 90.5 FM, a pro-Funcinpec station, of broadcasting programs critical of the CPP, contrary to an agreement between Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen to refrain from attacks on each other’s party.

The issue was resolved days later when Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Siri­vudh and his CPP counterpart, Say Chhum, renewed the media truce and agreed to resume negotiations to set up a new government.

Khieu Kanharith, however, said Ta Prohm continues to defy the agreement.

Ta Prohm’s director Nora­narith Anandayath denied his station criticized the CPP.

“My radio station has not made any mistakes in regard to the recent agreement between Prince Sirivudh and Say Chhum. We did not attack the CPP,” he said.

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