F’pec Nixes 2nd Meeting This Week

In a replay of events earlier this week, Funcinpec on Wednesday decided once again not to attend a meeting of the three parties scheduled for this morning, reportedly after hours of deliberation among royalist party members.

The meeting, which had been called by Funcinpec and the Sam Rain­sy Party’s Alliance of Demo­crats, was intended to assemble a 15-member task force at the Royal Palace to discuss the formation of a new National Assembly.

Late Wednesday, Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Ok Socheat said his party decided to can­cel the talks because it was holding out for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP to drop a court com­plaint against Funcinpec Pres­i­dent Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

A similar task force meeting scheduled for Tuesday had been canceled after Funcinpec declined to attend it, reportedly for the same reason.

“We want the case and everything cleaned first, before the negotiations,” Ok Socheat said.

The CPP filed a complaint on Nov 4 against Prince Ranariddh in Phnom Penh Municipal Court. It alleged that the prince had

de­famed and falsely accused Hun Sen of being in­volved in last month’s killing of pro-Funcinpec reporter Chuor Chetharith.

In a letter addressed to King Norodom Sihanouk on Wednes­day, Funcinpec Secretary-Gen­eral Prince Norodom Sirivudh denied his party had made such accusations against Hun Sen or the CPP.

He added that the CPP’s court complaint could be considered a tactic to put “moral pressure” on his party.

“Thus, upcoming discussions to find a solution in forming the new National Assembly and new royal government would go on with lack of dedication and lack of trust in each other,” Prince Siri­vudh wrote.

Sam Rainsy Party officials said Wednesday they would support the royalist party’s move and stand by their Alliance partner.

“As the Alliance, we have to stick together,” Sam Rainsy parliamentarian Son Chhay said.

News of Funcinpec’s decision was met with surprise from CPP officials.

“Until now, I do not get any news about Funcinpec hesitating about the meeting,” Hun Sen ad­viser Om Yentieng said Wednes­day evening. But, he said, “We are not their owner, so if they want to turn right and turn left, it depends on them.”

King Sihanouk on Wednesday decried the Alliance for prolonging the political stalemate.

“The great ‘strategists’ of Fun­cinpec and those not less famous of SRP have, are, and will do all, so that there is no new National As­sem­bly and new [government],” he wrote in a letter titled “Droll­ery” posted on his Web site.

The King said that by pushing for Hun Sen’s removal, the Alliance was effectively “serving…

the superior interests of the CPP and of its already legendary Strongman.”

In effect, he said, this “Strong­man” will be able to “reign without division over all Cambodia until 2008 and very probably beyond.”

Hun Sen has previously said that the CPP-led government would continue until a new government is established.

Son Chhay, appointed to negotiate Assembly issues on behalf of the opposition party, said the task force members had planned to focus today primarily on technical issues, including legislative amendments and internal regulations of the parliament.

Topics of discussion also would have included ballot secrecy, seating arrangements and joint committees within the Assembly, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said.

Another meeting is scheduled for Friday to discuss the policies of the new government.

But, Ok Socheat said, if the court case is not dropped, Funcin­pec will boycott Friday’s meeting too.

Funcinpec Senator Nhiek Bun Chhay said the Alliance has drafted a proposal for a new government, which calls for the creation of an immigration ministry to stem the flow of illegal migrants.

The draft also demands that the new government have two deputy prime ministers, Nhiek Bun Chhay said. Under such a formula, the CPP would retain the prime minister position, while the two deputy posts would be filled by Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, he said.

The Alliance will also suggest that all government positions, including lower-level bureaucrats, should be agreed upon by negotiation and that no government official would be fired without the approval of the deputy prime ministers, Nhiek Bun Chhay said.

In a statement issued Wednes­day, well-known “civil society” figures requested they be included in the talks.

“It is very important in democratic unity to have civil society in the meeting,” the statement said. It was signed by members of human rights groups including Adhoc, Licadho, Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. (Additional reporting by Kim Chan and Pin Sisovann)


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