Funcinpec, CPP Deny They Met

Officials from the three main political parties on Wednesday denied local newspaper reports which alleged that Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh had held a secret meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen this week.

The pro-government, Khmer-language Koh Santepheap’s (Island of Peace) headline story on Wednesday reported that the two leaders had met surreptitiously either in Koh Kong province or Sihanoukville municipality, or both places—a report that officials were quick to dismiss.

“No meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh has occurred on the coast, as reported by local newspapers,” CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday, adding that Hun Sen had not gone to Koh Kong.

But, he said: “A meeting is possible [in the near future]. It might happen before the 20th” of March. He declined to give further details.

A meeting between the two leaders is widely anticipated, as it could lead to a possible resolution to the eight-month long political deadlock, which has stalled the formation of a new government and National Assembly.

Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay on Wednesday said Prince Rana­riddh had merely gone to the coast for a vacation with his family.

The royalist president went to Koh Kong on Tuesday and returned to the capital on Wednes­day, Nhiek Bun Chhay said.

Since Prince Ranariddh’s return to Phnom Penh from meeting with politicians in Europe on Saturday, he has met with his Alliance of Democrats partner Sam Rainsy only once, said Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang.

The two talked behind closed doors on Monday afternoon and solidified their strategy to remain united in their push for a tripartite government, Alliance officials said.

Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy were scheduled to hold another meeting with the Alli­ance’s 50 parliamentarians and with officials from the International Republican Institute on Wednes­day, but both of those meetings were canceled.

Ung Bun-Ang said the Alliance called off the meetings because its officials were not ready to

pass on certain information about their strategy planning to their colleagues. He declined to elaborate.

He dismissed reports of a meeting between Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh as “just speculation,” adding that the Sam Rainsy Party’s relationship with Funcinpec “is still strong. There is no change.”

“The prince can meet with Hun Sen anytime he wishes because we trust him completely,” Ung Bun-Ang said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, King Norodom Sihanouk lamented the country’s political and economic condition in a letter posted on his Web site.

“As we have not a parliament nor a new legal and constitutional government, the old government of Prime Minister created in 1998 continues to function,” King Sihanouk wrote.

He added that in contrast to the 1950s and 1960s, Cambodia no longer has financial independence, relying on foreign aid to survive. Nor, he said, does it have “territorial integrality.”

He listed a number of other “very serious problems” that the country faces, including human rights violations, drug trafficking, and “a multitude of Cambodians so miserable and poor that they find themselves in Vietnam and Thailand as beggars, thieves, and prostitutes.”

“Last but not least: continual killings (murders) of political motivation,” he said, referring to a string of assassination-style attacks in Phnom Penh over the past year.

“But the assassins are declared ‘unknown,’ ‘unfindable.’ They are consequently unpunished,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)

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