Funcinpec May Resign En Masse

Top Funcinpec government officials submitted their resignations to party President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh Monday and threatened to pull out of their current coalition government with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP.

All 85 Funcinpec ministers, secretaries of state and undersecretaries of state signed a document declaring their intent to resign at Prince Ranariddh’s bidding, party officials said.

The document gives Prince Ranariddh leverage to withdraw his party from the government, leaving the CPP to govern alone, a move that would call into serious question the legality of Hun Sen’s government.

“The prince will make the final decision on this,” Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou told reporters after an emergency meeting of the party’s top government officials at Prince Rana­riddh’s house Monday morning.

“All of us cannot accept the repeated violations both past and recent of the November 1998 agreement of cooperation be­tween Funcinpec and the CPP [which was the basis for the

current government],” Kassie Neou said.

Their resignation notice comes a day after Funcinpec warned the CPP it had violated the terms of their coalition government when Hun Sen appointed new acting ministers to control the Fun­cinpec-run justice and education ministries.

Many observers saw the appointments as an act of provocation by the CPP at a time when both parties have been struggling to restart negotiations aimed at resolving the more than nine-month long political deadlock.

Funcinpec has “not been treated as equal partners in the government,” Kassie Neou said Monday.

Prince Ranariddh declined to speak to reporters.

A copy of the signed document was not made available to reporters, as Funcinpec officials said more party members were planning to sign it.

A mass resignation of Funcin­pec government officials, however, would not be enough to undermine the current government, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday.

“You cannot dissolve the government just by leaving the government,” he said.

Under the Constitution, the government can be dissolved only by a two-thirds majority vote of the National Assembly or if the prime minister’s post is permanently vacant.

“There are only these two ways,” Khieu Kanharith said.

He also chided Funcinpec for accusing the CPP of violating their 1998 agreement.

Funcinpec violated that same agreement when it joined the opposition party in the Alliance of Democrats last August, and again when its ministers declined to attend the bimonthly Council

of Ministers meetings during

the deadlock, Khieu Kanharith said.

He added, “I hope Funcinpec does not commit this third mistake” by withdrawing from the government altogether, but “if they resign, OK.”

If Funcinpec pulls out of the government “it would alleviate the burden on the national budget,” Khieu Kanharith said.

CPP’s Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Assembly’s Finance and Banking Commission, gave a gloomy outlook for the two parties’ future relationship.

“What Funcinpec is doing causes an obstacle for the process of talks and also threatens to hurt the reputation of Samdech Hun Sen,” he said. “They are creating this obstacle to kill the nation.

“It’s bad that they rid themselves of the responsibility that they were given by the voters,” Cheam Yeap said.

But, he added, “the CPP will still do our work for the nation.”

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay expressed his support for Funcinpec, saying the CPP’s move to take control of the Justice and Education ministries only served to consolidate the royalist party.

“Hun Sen made a wrong move. It made Funcinpec even tougher to ensure there are no more violations in power sharing” in the new government, Son Chhay said.

But he acknowledged that leaving the CPP as the sole governing power could be a blow to democracy.

“It is a dictatorship regime, which is really what we’re facing,” he said.

Currently, there are no legal or constitutional regulations to navigate a mass resignation of government officials during a political deadlock, Son Chhay said.

Hun Sen left Cambodia for Laos Monday morning for a visit aimed at strengthening ties between the countries.

The prime minister is scheduled to return Wednesday, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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