Hun Sen Orders Gov’t to Stay on Job

King Won’t Pressure Opposition Parties

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen announced again Wednes­day that the pre-election government will continue to rule until a coalition deal is reached, and King Norodom Sihanouk has reiterated that he will not pressure the opposition to reach a deal with their ruling rival.

Hun Sen’s message came in a letter to civil servants broadcast Wednesday on Bayon TV.

“The present government, which will leave office, is for now handling the daily activities of the country until the new government comes to power,” said the Oct 2 letter by Hun Sen and First Prime Minister Ung Huot.

Hun Sen has previously said the current government cannot legally be replaced until the new Assembly meets, which is being prevented by political bickering.

However, opposition leader Sam Rainsy maintained Wednes­day night that the current government is illegal and cannot represent the nation. Speaking by telephone from the US, Sam Rainsy accused Hun Sen of staging a “virtual coup d’etat.”

Additionally, on Wednesday it emerged that 32 of the opposition’s 58 new Assembly members are out of the country, according to representatives of Funcin­pec and the Sam Rainsy Party.

The political maneuvering comes after two rounds of coalition negotiations on the formation of the next government yielded nothing. A third round of talks is scheduled for Friday.

King Sihanouk released an interview with aides late Tuesday that addressed the possibility of a Constitutional change that would allow Hun Sen’s CPP to rule alone without a coalition.

The King, who arrived in Phnom Penh for the first time in nine months Monday, said he does not support changing the Constitution but he would not attempt to obstruct legal efforts to do so.

“I am against any modification of our Constitution….[If it is] conforming to the ‘permission’ ac­corded by the Constitution itself

I would not oppose this, but don’t come talking about ‘maneuvers’ and ‘pressures’ of the King! Our politicians are responsible for their own actions!”

The Constitution requires two-thirds of the National Assembly to form a new government. Sup­porters of Hun Sen have in the past floated the idea of changing the Constitution so that it would take a simple majority of the Assembly to form a government. The CPP has 64 of the As­sem­bly’s 122 seats, or 52 percent.

A “large number of so-called ‘opposition anti-Hun Sen’ depu­ties” want to change the number to a simple majority, the King’s interviewer is quoted as saying.

“It is not clear exactly to whom the King is responding, but it would seem to be to the advantage of the CPP to change the Constitution,” a Western diplomat said Wednesday.

“I don’t think that the King favors so much the CPP, but it’s in the interests of the nation. The country has to think about getting back its General Assembly seat at the UN, its place in Asean, relations with the EU, the World Bank, the [International Mone­tary Fund],” the diplomat added, implying such a change would be a way out of the political crisis.

However, other analysts ex­pressed concern that if the Con­stitution was changed it would adversely affect the international community’s perception of Cam­bodia’s new government.

The US announced Friday that it would wait until a “representative” government is formed before resuming aid or supporting a UN seat for Cam­bodia. He said the opposition should have a “meaningful” role.

King Sihanouk’s news release followed talks Tuesday between himself and top CPP leaders. The meeting was an effort to encourage the monarch to mediate a resolution, analysts said.

In expressing his views on the possibility of Constitutional change, the King said he was not pressuring politicians to act.

The King confirmed “certain Khmers and foreigners” asked him to help with the formation of government and so he delayed a trip to Beijing on Monday to come to Phnom Penh.

The King said he did not leave the country because it had been asserted his absence would result in what one CPP leader called last week a “power vacuum.”

“Certain Khmers claim that I don’t have the right to leave the country, even to get medical care in Beijing as long as there is no president of the National Assem­bly to play the role of the head of state in my absence,” the King said.

Sam Rainsy used this statement to justify an allegation that the King is remaining in Cam­bodia against his will.

“I believe he is being held against his will,” Sam Rainsy said during his lobbying trip in Wash­ing­­ton. “My campaign is to free the King, who is being held under virtual palace arrest.”

Sam Rainsy also said that all 15 of his party’s Assembly members are out of the country and would not attend a National Assembly meeting until election complaints are “properly dealt with.”

Thirteen Sam Rainsy Party Assembly members released a statement signed Tuesday that called for the dismissal of top members of the current government who did not win seats in the recent election. The statement named Ung Huot as being constitutionally unable to participate in the government because he does not belong to a political party elected to the National Assembly.

Only 25 of the 42 Funcinpec parliamentarians were in Cam­bodia, said Prince Sisowath Siri­rath, a former UN ambassador.

“They don’t feel the need to be here until the National Assembly is convened,” Sisowath Sirirath said, adding that many of them are meeting with Funcinpec Party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh in Bangkok.

Prince Ranariddh has been in Bangkok since Sept 25. Party Secretary-General Tol Lah, Deputy Secretary-General Hong Sun Huot and parliamentarian Pok Than all left the country Wednesday for Bangkok to meet with Prince Ranariddh, party officials said Wednesday.

Battambang Parliamentarian Mu Sochua said she was going to  Singapore on Wednesday.


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