King Backs Hun Sen for Prime Minister’s Post

King Norodom Sihanouk on Friday forsook his silence on the national elections, advocating that Prime Minister Hun Sen again lead the government.

CPP President and current Sen­ate President Chea Sim should remain in his position while CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin should preside over the National As­sembly, the King recommended in a written letter posted on his Web site.

The King went on to suggest that, “if Samdech Hun Sen wants it,” either Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Siri­vudh or opposition party leader Sam Rainsy could figure into a new government as a deputy prime minister alongside the CPP’s current deputy prime minister, Sar Kheng.

“In this way, Cambodia, the Nation and the Khmer People will avoid non-peace, instability and other major problems,” he advised.

King Sihanouk made no mention of his son, Funcinpec Pres­ident Prince Norodom Rana­riddh, who served the last mandate as president of the Assembly.

The King concluded his statement with a favorite reminder: “The King reigns but does not rule.

“This that I have written above is but the humble opinion of a Khmer citizen.”

Few Funcinpec officials could be reached for comment Sunday, with the party showing signs of an internal rift. But those available were reticent.

“I’d rather not comment,” said the usually outspoken Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mu Sochua. “It is his own opinion.”

Senator Nhiek Bun Chhay, a former royalist military commander, also said he did not want to comment because of the way in which the King had presented his opinion, as that of a citizen.

But the former guerrilla fighter sounded undeterred by the King’s position. “It is the King’s personal proposal. We are not interested in it. Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party will form a new coalition government with the CPP without Hun Sen as prime minister. Both [parties] will join or not join together,” he said.

As for the opposition party, Sam Rainsy initially declined to comment Sunday as King Sihanouk did not speak “as monarch or father of the nation,” but as an ordinary citizen.

“It is his right…to express an opinion,” Sam Rainsy said.

But then, he suggested that one should “read between the lines” of the King’s statement.

“The King uses irony. He is very sarcastic,” Sam Rainsy said. “We aren’t clear exactly what the King means.”

Only opposition lawmaker Son Chhay did not dismiss the King’s recommendations as personal opinion. “I think the proposal of the King is the CPP proposal,” he said Sunday.

“It can’t be the King’s suggestion alone,” he said, adding that perhaps the CPP’s Minister of the Royal Palace, Kong Som Ol, had indicated the ruling party’s wishes to the monarch.

King Sihanouk’s position will only strengthen the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec’s union of resistance against a Hun Sen-led government, Son Chhay said.

He also said that having the executive branch plus both the country’s legislative bodies under CPP control is cause for worry.

Son Chhay dismissed as impotent the King’s recommended pos­ition for the highest-ranking member of Hun Sen’s chosen coalition partner, co-deputy prime minister.

According to preliminary election results, the CPP dominated the July 27 polling, but once again fell short of the two-thirds majority that it needs to govern alone.

A Sam Rainsy Party-Funcinpec coalition is demanding a three-party government without Hun Sen as prime minister. The CPP has scoffed, and Hun Sen has recommended that Funcinpec consider its best interests.

The King dismissed the Fun­cin­pec and Sam Rainsy Party proposals for their “naivete.” Funcin­pec has called for the new government to be led by a “neutral” prime minister flanked by three deputies from the parties. The Sam Rainsy Party suggested Hun Sen preside over the National Assembly, Prince Ranariddh preside over the Sen­ate, and Chea Sim sit as prime minister with Sam Rainsy as his deputy.

“The response of the glorious and all powerful CPP: No,” as King Sihanouk summarized it.

In another statement dated Fri­day, the King suggested “without vanity” that Funcinpec had won the 1993 election due to his popularity and nostalgia for his Sang­kum Reastr Niyum government. He wrote that despite his refusal to return to power, Fun­cin­pec leaders had promised voters that their victory would mean just that.

“The Khmer people have never lacked intelligence. It has come to realize that a [King Sihanouk] is not Funcinpec and that ‘to stop voting for Funcinpec’ is not at all to say ‘love less’ or ‘stop loving’ [King Sihanouk]. Many compatriots in recent days have confirmed that for me,” he wrote.

Funcinpec’s poor showing at the polls has caused some critics to hear death knells for the party.

The King issued another statement on Saturday that described that Election Day showing as “humiliating and painful” and Funcinpec’s “Waterloo.”

He blamed the party’s so-called demise on “the fact that Funcin­pec before the national election of 2003 was a docile ‘valet’ to the CPP and its irresistible STRONGMAN.”

“The [Funcinpec] supporters became ‘former supporters’ because they don’t like being ‘taken for idiots,” he wrote.

The King also hinted that Fun­cin­pec lawmaker Princess Noro­dom Vacheara, whom he only referred to as “this great princess” and “NV,” had lent the royalists their “mercy blow” by declaring some party ministers corrupt and Prince Norodom Ranariddh inept in the press.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)


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