Defiant Opposition Vows to Continue Protests

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Wed­nesday said opposition parties would continue to organize protests despite the government’s cleanup of a two-week vigil and an ongoing crackdown on roving bands of protesters.

Prince Ranariddh said Fun­cinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party would ask for permission to stage a legal demonstration to protest alleged violations during July’s election.

The two parties submitted a formal request to municipal authorities and the Ministry of Interior on Wednesday requesting permission for a protest on Sunday. The proposed march would leave Olympic Stadium at 7:30 am and end at the National Assembly three hours later.

The request, which was also forwarded to the offices of the two prime ministers, estimates that 20,000 people would participate in the proposed march.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday he had not yet seen the opposition’s request and would not comment on whether it would be accepted. He said the opposition supporters had the “right to demonstrate.”

The protest was proposed to push for a revised list of demands that Prince Ranariddh outlined at an impromptu press conference at Funcinpec headquarters. The opposition is demanding a reconciliation of the ballots and a change in the formula used to calculate seats in the National Assembly.

The formula the National Election Committee is using favors the party receiving the most votes, and gives the ruling CPP a majority in the Assembly. Opposition parties question when and if the formula was legally adopted, but the NEC denies any wrongdoing.

Funcinpec also alleges there has never been a sufficient ac­coun­ting of all unused ballots.

Prince Ranariddh spoke shortly after meeting with opposition party leader Sam Rainsy. The two said they exchanged information and worked out strategy.

The two leaders condemned the police actions that shut down a two-week vigil in the park across from the National As­sembly, and denied any involvement with spontaneous demonstrations that have erupted around the city.

“I have been accused of masterminding these demonstrations,” Sam Rainsy said. Sam Rainsy says he is under UN protection to avoid having to answer a government subpoena that he fears endangers his life.

“I have been in the UN office for the past three days. I have not given any instructions,” he said. “I am cut off.”

Prince Ranariddh said the chances of forming a coalition with the CPP are now even more remote because of the police crackdown.

“For Funcinpec to join the coalition government I think that yesterday’s events render the possibility…slimmer and slimmer,” Prince Ranariddh said.

However, the prince said opposition party members could be in the National Assembly “within 24 hours” if the CPP agreed to their demands. The demands, he said, were not negotiable because the opposition had dropped two other demands for recounts and revotes in certain parts of the country.

The CPP lacks the two-thirds majority required by the Con­stitution needed to form a government on its own. The mandate for the present government expires Sept 24.

Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy also met with Lakhan Mehrotra, the personal representative for the UN secretary-general in Cambodia. The prince also said that Mehrotra flew to Siem Reap on Wednesday afternoon to meet with King Noro­dom Siha­nouk.

The King is considered to be a pivotal figure in any possible negotiations between the political parties, although talks last weekend in Siem Reap between the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party failed.

Prince Ranariddh said he asked the King, his father, not to ab­­dicate the throne. King Sih­a­nouk last week threatened to ab­dicate if no agree­­­­ment is reached between the parties this month.


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