The CPP will not abandon its coalition partner Funcinpec and royalist officials will not be removed from the government, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday.
Funcinpec Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng heralded the comments as a resolution of recent tensions between the ruling coalition partners, while opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he is not interested in discussing forming a coalition government prior to the 2008 national election.
“The CPP and Funcinpec are working together,” Hun Sen said at a groundbreaking ceremony in Siem Reap province, dismissing local media reports that the CPP was planning to suspend royalist officials. “The government efficiency must continue,” he said.
Hun Sen, however, said the CPP still plans to amend the Constitution to reduce the amount of lawmakers needed to form a government, a move that observers say would eliminate the need to form future coalition governments.
But for now, the prime minister added: “Government officials are still government officials. Governors are still governors and ministers are still ministers. There is no principle to replace Funcinpec government officials.”
Hun Sen’s comments came days after he accused Funcinpec of appointing unfit people to government positions, and of draining the CPP of its lifeblood.
Lu Laysreng, who had been rumored to be one of the Funcinpec ministers facing removal, welcomed Hun Sen’s speech. “His comments could help us, just like a husband and wife. The husband threatens in the morning then hugs at night,” Lu Laysreng said.
He added that there are no plans for his removal, which he said last week was a choice Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh would have to make.
Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu Sorn said he had heard that royalist co-Minister of Interior Prince Norodom Sirivudh had been tipped for removal, but that he had checked with the prince, who had told him it was only a rumor.
Prince Sirivudh could not be contacted, while Funcinpec spokesman Chea Chanboribo declined comment.
Sam Rainsy said that when it comes to the 2008 national election, only the general public would be able to decide who forms the government.
“The Sam Rainsy Party will try to succeed and then we will be the one who will decide” on choosing a coalition partner, he said.
On Feb 15, Sam Rainsy said the opposition was keeping open the possibility of forming a coalition government in 2008 to bring about national compromise and reconciliation.
Prince Ranariddh on Saturday warned his ministers and provincial governors that they would be fired if they failed to win votes for the 2007 commune election and the 2008 national election.
“If they don’t have good results, although the prime minister said it [would produce] instability to remove them, I will remove them,” he said.
Relations among the three parties have been fluctuating rapidly since the return of Sam Rainsy earlier in the month, leaving observers guessing as to what will happen next.
Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said any solidarity between the parties is likely to be temporary.
“Politicians will return to quarrel amongst themselves despite the recent compromise,” he said. “Every politician wants to control the government.”