F’Pec Official To Negotiate With Hun Sen

Prince Norodom Ranariddh will send Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay to negotiate with the prime minister, the prince’s public affairs adviser said Monday, one day after Hun Sen said the prince should be removed as party president.

Ok Socheat said that despite Hun Sen’s blistering speech against the prince Sunday, and his announcement that he would be firing four senior Funcinpec government officials, relations between the two parties remain healthy.

“It’s time for the prince to send Nhiek Bun Chhay to talk with Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Ok Socheat said, though he insisted: “Right now the alliance with the CPP is good.”

Nhiek Bun Chhay said the prince had not instructed him to speak with Hun Sen and declined comment on whether he felt he could ease tensions between the two party leaders.

The whereabouts of Prince Ranariddh remained unclear Monday.

Ok Socheat said he was due to return to Cambodia from either Thailand or Malaysia, where he had sought medical treatment over the weekend. However, Chea Chanboribo, the prince’s spokesman, said the prince was not due back until today.

Hun Sen announced Sunday that he would be firing Fun­cinpec’s Senior Minister Serei Kosal, Justice Ministry Secretaries of State Tuot Lux and Kassie Neou, as well as Chea Chanboribo from his position as Information Ministry secretary of state.

He also accused Prince Ranariddh of forming a political alliance to compete with the current government.

Serei Kosal, who Hun Sen accused of “disrupting the government,” said Monday that he did not know what he had done to offend the prime minister. But he speculated that the decision may have been caused by personal conflict between Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh.

He also said that such problems were par for the course in politics.

“Working in government causes you to face such difficulties,” he said.

Serei Kosal also said that Prince Ranariddh had never called for retired King Norodom Sihanouk to become prime minister or for the government to be dissolved.

In a speech Thursday in Kompong Chhnang province, Prince Ranariddh urged nationalists, democrats and royalists to unite, adding: “If our King Father is happy to lead the movement, Funcinpec supports him…. The whole Khmer nation is waiting for the King Father.”

Serei Kosal also said the call was unrealistic.

“We all know the King Father does not want such power,” he said.

Hun Sen said that Prince Ranariddh and Prince Sisowath Thomico had demanded that the government be dissolved and power be handed back to Norodom Sihanouk, and accused them of plotting a constitutional coup.

Chea Chanboribo, who Hun Sen also accused of disrupting the government, wrote in a Monday fax to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith that he was returning his government-issued vehicle license plates.

“Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech has already finished my title as secretary of state of the Ministry of Information,” he wrote, adding that even though he hadn’t received a royal decree sealing his removal, there were no obstacles to prevent the prime minister from sacking him.

In a fax dated Sunday to Nhiek Bun Chhay, Prince Ranariddh asked him to discuss the removal of the four Funcinpec officials with CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum.

“Please discuss with his Excellency Say Chhum to immediately solve problems of the planned removal of [the officials],” Prince Ranariddh wrote without elaborating.

Say Chhum could not be contacted for comment.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the CPP has always honored its coalition agreement with Funcinpec, and that Hun Sen has instructed all CPP officials to continue cooperating with the royalists.

Asked about the tone of Hun Sun’s speech, during which he warned that anyone who wanted to dissolve the National Assembly should “prepare their coffins,” Cheam Yeap said Hun Sen is human and sometimes loses his temper.

He also said that there was no need for the prince to issue a call for a united front of parties because the CPP, Funcinpec and the SRP had always sought the retired King and Queen’s advice, which brought them a form of unity.

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