CPP Softens Stance, Will Talk to F’pec

Apparently backing down from its earlier decision, CPP officials on Wednesday indicated their party will resume negotiations with Funcinpec to form a new government, despite the royalists’ rejection of CPP demands to remove a pro-Funcinpec radio station director.

“Negotiations will continue,” CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, but the two parties will have to “wait and see” when their negotiating teams will meet again.

He added that the CPP had some contact with Funcinpec officials on Wednesday “to clarify some points.” He declined to elaborate.

The CPP pulled out of talks earlier this week, claiming that pro-Funcinpec Ta Prohm radio station violated an agreement between royalist President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh and Prime Mini­ster Hun Sen to stop broadcasting criticisms of each other’s party.

The CPP said it would not return to the negotiating table until Funcinpec removed Ta Prohm’s director Noranarith Anandayath and renewed the media truce between the two leaders. Both demands were promptly rejected by Funcinpec officials, who alleged that the CPP was merely trying to stall negotiations.

Though Khieu Kanharith skirted questions about whether the CPP would scrap those demands Wednesday, he said the move to halt negotiations was “just a reminder” to Funcinpec that it should “show willingness to work together” in a new government.

He denied the CPP was stalling, saying “we are not like the other party.”

Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yen­tieng also downplayed the issue Wednesday.

“I think to resume the talks is not very difficult,” he said.

Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou did not answer repeated telephone calls Wednesday. But the party’s Deputy Secretary-General, Nhiek Bun Chhay, said he had not received notice from the CPP to resume talks.

Noranarith Anandayath, the director of Ta Prohm who found himself the focus of the political battle this week, said he was baffled by the uproar.

“I’m just dumbfounded,” he said Wednesday. “We haven’t done anything wrong.”

Noranarith Anandayath said Ta Prohm, at 90.5 FM, was merely broadcasting its regular programs that are “geared toward what people want to hear” and did not know what had offended the CPP.

“We don’t insult Hun Sen. We don’t insult the CPP,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith, however, said the station had shown a general increase of verbal attacks against the CPP over the past week, despite Prince Rana­riddh and Hun Sen’s agreement.

“It is not only one program,” Khieu Kanharith said.

On an order from Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Noro­dom Sirivudh, Ta Prohm has temporarily halted all programs that could be perceived as inflammatory, Noranarith Anandayath said. Those programs include call-in shows where listeners can express their opinions.

The station has also put off new shows that were meant to discuss contentious issues, such as Cambodia’s territorial sovereignty, corruption and poverty, the director added.

In their place, the station is broadcasting historical programs and folk stories, he said. On Wednesday, it broadcast songs, news, a recount of King Norodom Sihanouk’s accomplishments and letters from its listeners.

“I do this—I stop the programs because I want the CPP to feel secure. I don’t want to tear them apart,” he said.

But, having been publicly defended by Prince Ranariddh on Tuesday, Noranarith Anandayath said he would not step down unless the CPP agreed to a few demands of his own.

The CPP would have to remove Khieu Kanharith, Om Yentieng and Sok An, minister of the Council of Ministers. And it would also have to agree to a number of Funcinpec proposals for a new government policy, including reforms to the National Election Committee and judiciary, lower gas prices, efforts to stop illegal immigration and higher civil servants’ salaries, he said.

“If they accept that, I’ll step down,” Noranarith Anandayath said.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)

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