King Blasts Parties for Continued Stalemate

On the 10 year anniversary of his re-ascension to the Throne, King Norodom Sihanouk on Wednesday blasted the three main political parties for sending Cam­bodia into a “national crisis” through their inability to resolve the current political standoff.

“Our three big political parties, elected democratically by our people, show themselves incapable or unwilling to realize a com­promise, if not a union be­tween them, thus creating an ex­tremely dangerous situation of national (not only political) crisis,” the King wrote in a statement.

“It is said at the bosom of my Cabinet and of my Secretariat, there is a division and an irreparable hatred.”

King Sihanouk also lamented the country’s reliance on assistance from foreigners. “If these foreigners can’t ‘help’ us, we address, ‘for lack of something better,’ the old Khmer King named Sihanouk the Pitiful!” he said.

The three parties, however, were kept in suspense Wednes­day, awaiting word from the King as to any changes in the planned convening of Saturday’s inaugural National Assembly session.

Officials from the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec were holding out for a response to the opposition party’s “ultimate concession”—an outline of its conditions for joining the Assembly meeting that was sent to the King Tuesday.

At the same time, CPP officials were waiting to see whether the King would retract his earlier re­quest that Senate President Chea Sim, who is also the president of the CPP, oversee the swearing-in ceremony in the King’s stead.

“The King may change his mind,” Chea Song, senior Senate Cabinet chief, said Wednesday. “But from now on, if the King doesn’t change his mind, Chea Sim will go.”

In a letter to the King on Tues­day, opposition leader Sam Rain­sy said he would postpone his call for a ballot recount in Svay Rieng and Kompong Thom provinces, as long as the two contested Assembly seats were suspended.

He added that his party’s elected parliamentarians would attend the meeting only if the demands of his party’s Alliance of Democrats partner were met.

Funcinpec has said the meeting must be attended by all 120 par­liamentarians in the presence of the King, and that it be held at the Royal Palace instead of the Na­tional Assembly, where it is scheduled to take place.

The King wrote a reply to Sam Rainsy late Tuesday, thanking him for his letter. But he did not respond to the party’s concession.

With only three days before the meeting, Funcinpec officials said their parliamentarians were prepared not to swear in. “We are planning not to go. Up to now, we have not heard that our demands are met,” Funcin­pec spokesman Kassie Neou said Wednesday.

Preparations for the meeting went ahead, however, as about 30 members of the Ministry of In­terior’s bodyguard department searched the Assembly for wea­p­ons and explosives, Assembly security officials said.

Meanwhile, Sam Rainsy Party officials said they were preparing to hold a ceremony on Thursday morning in honor of the victims of the March 30, 1997, grenade attack that killed at least 15 people. The grenade was aimed at a rally called by Sam Rainsy. The ceremony, which was approved by the Phnom Penh Municipality, will take place in front of the Assembly at 7:30 am.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan and Van Roeun)


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