The resistance is ready to send another team to Phnom Penh this week to discuss troop reintegration, but the absence of a key negotiator could delay the talks further, officials said Tuesday.
In an interview on Radio Free Asia, resistance deputy commander Khann Savoeun said he has organized another team to lead talks with the government on reintegrating troops loyal to deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
May Sam Oeun, a Funcinpec member and spokesman for the prince, confirmed Tuesday that the new five-member team was ready and that the resistance was ready to negotiate reintegration within the week.
Talks at the Ministry of Defense on Friday broke down after 10 minutes when government negotiators complained that two civilians, including Long Sorin, first secretary at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, were among resistance negotiators.
It is unclear if any of the new team members are civilians. The delegation’s leader is Puth Chanarith, the resistance military spokesman following last July’s factional fighting.
However, Khann Savoeun did not name himself as part of the delegation, which could be a sticking point with the government’s negotiators, one said.
“If Khann Savoeun doesn’t come, we cannot have the talks …because [Prince Ranariddh] has sent Khann Savoeun to talk with the government,” said General Dom Vuthy, chief of the government’s negotiating team. “So Khann Savoeun has to abide by Ranariddh.”
Asked why he would not negotiate with anyone other than Khann Savoeun, Dom Vuthy explained, “Our government has nominated us to talk with Khann Savoeun and Khann Savoeun’s team.”
May Sam Oeun said it is not the government’s business to decide who will negotiate for the resistance.
“The modalities are all assigned to Khann Savoeun,” he said. “Why do they want Khann Savoeun to negotiate with them? I do not know.”
Khann Savoeun told RFA he cannot return to Phnom Penh because “someone” tried to frame him as having ties to the hard-line Khmer Rouge.
“While I was at the meeting, I was told by my security guards that someone had identified himself as Khmer Rouge from Chnouk Trou [in Kompong Chhnang province] and that he wanted to see me because he needed me to help give him food and other materials,” he told RFA. “Someone had prepared him in order to cause me trouble.”