Funcinpec, Opposition Boycott Talks

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party said they will not attend a meeting with the CPP scheduled to be convened today by King Nor­odom Sihanouk after Sat­urday’s shooting death of a pro-Funcinpec radio journalist.

Their boycott postpones the start of negotiations between the three main parties aimed at re­solving the ongoing political deadlock.

The two parties announced their decision after Chuor Che­tha­rith, 37, an editor and re­porter for Ta Prohm radio station, was gunned down in front of his workplace Saturday morning. Officials from Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Demo­crats called the incident an act of political intimidation by the CPP.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to meet right now,” Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou said  Sun­day. “When the CPP is ready, we will negotiate without threat.”

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang echoed his comments.

“It would be ridiculous for us to attend [today’s meeting] given this politically motivated killing,” Ung Bun-Ang said Sunday. “We cannot negotiate under this threat.”

He added that the Alliance would refuse three-party talks as long as threats to its members and supporters remained. Chuor Chetharith’s death follows a string of attacks on Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party supporters and activists.

On Friday, the King summoned the three parties to meet at the Royal Palace today to discuss formation of a new government and the chairmanship of the National Assembly. It would have marked the first time the parties have officially discussed the post-election standoff together.

Although the CPP won the July 27 general election with 73 seats in the Assembly, it is nine seats short of the number needed to form a government on its own. Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Par­ty, however, said they will not join a coalition government with the CPP as long as Hun Sen remains prime minister.

CPP officials are refusing to create a three-party government, preferring instead to work with only their current coalition partner, Funcinpec.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said that it was too early to comment on the motive for Saturday’s killing. He said that unless the King postpones to­day’s meeting, the CPP is still willing to attend, despite the ab­sence of the other two parties.

However, in a statement posted on his Web site Sunday, King Sihanouk said it was inevitable the meeting would be postponed, but he did not set a new date. He added that he did not know how long the political standoff would continue.

“Our respected and well-loved people know that I have already made all of my duties,” he wrote, criticizing the parties’ inability to end the deadlock. “One evidently scorns our ‘sovereign’ people.”

In a separate letter to the Sam Rainsy Party on Sunday, King Sihanouk said he understood the party’s decision to withdraw from the meeting, but he had not yet canceled the event.

The King issued a statement on Saturday saying he would not force the parties to accept any deals. But, he said, “I believe the political deadlock cannot be settled if there are not reciprocal concessions.”

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s continued call for Hun Sen’s removal would obstruct negotiations with the CPP, the King said.

He added: “If Hun Sen still in­sists on not having a tripartite government, I believe that is a serious obstacle that will not allow the present political deadlock to be resolved.”

The King suggested the following arrangement: If Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party agreed to Hun Sen remaining prime minister, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and CPP President Chea Sim could each be either the president of the new Assembly or head of the Senate.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy could be the Assembly vice president or deputy prime minister of the government, he said. In such a scenario, Hun Sen would offer Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party positions in the government as ministers, secretaries of states and ambassadors, the King added.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party both rejected the proposal on Sunday.

“This is an option we cannot ac­cept,” Ung Bun-Ang said.

Kassie Neou said Funcinpec was firm on the issue of removing Hun Sen. “As of today, our stance is the same,” he said.

Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa said he was “disappointed” about the setback to the negotiations.

“I always hope that this situation terminates as soon as possible…. I hope the parties es­tablish a new government as soon as possible,” he said. “I hope the parties strive very much for the sake of the country.”

Another Asian diplomat de­clined to comment on the postponement of the talks. But he said: “I’m not surprised [Fun­cin­pec and the Sam Rainsy Party] are not going.”

(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly and Kim Chan)


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