King Calls Meeting to Break Deadlock

Prince Won’t Work With Hun Sen, Even At Father’s Request

King Norodom Sihanouk has called the three main parties to a weekend meeting in Siem Reap in hopes of resolving a month-long political crisis that has led to 11 days of demonstrations in Phnom Penh.

But the King, to whom diplomats and politicians have ap­pealed for a solution to the deadlock following the July 26 elections, appeared at the same time to back away from his role as mediator. Instead, he suggested UN Secretary-General Kofi An­nan should also broker talks.

The talks, which are to include three representatives of the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party as well as three from the National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council, are set to start Saturday and continue through Monday, according to a statement from the royal cabinet.

“I do not dare to promise that the meeting will produce good results, but hopefully it will somewhat relieve our nation from the present political crisis,” King Sihanouk wrote.

He also said he hopes the meeting will lead to face-to-face talks between Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and opposition figure Sam Rainsy.

The call for talks came a day after the NEC declared the CPP the official election winner, a victory thus far marred by Funcin­pec’s refusal to join a coalition government. The CPP won a majority in parliament but needs Funcinpec’s support for the two-thirds confirmation vote required to form a new government.

The three main parties welcomed the King’s summons Wednesday.

“This is good news,” Prince Ranariddh said, speaking at the 10th day of an opposition sit-in demonstration near the National Assembly. “When we meet with our father [the King], we are confident we can solve the problems blocking formation of the new government.”

“We will go….What we wish is that we can find a solution to this problem,” said CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

But the three parties are still entrenched in the positions that prevent a coalition. Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have demanded more proof that there was no significant election fraud and also that an earlier, more favorable seat allocation formula be adopted before they will even seat their combined 58 members in the 122-seat National Assembly.

The two opposition parties also insist they will not join any government headed by Hun Sen, whom they accuse of staging a coup d’etat to oust Prince Ranariddh as first premier last year. The CPP has said Hun Sen’s candidacy is non-negotiable.

Prince Ranariddh on Wednesday said he would not work with Hun Sen even if his father directly asked him to. “I think that, very res­pectfully, I would refuse. Very respectfully,” he said.

Instead, he called on the King, who is to meet with Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim today, to “try to convince those leaders of the CPP to be reasonable and to compromise and positively respond to the will of the people of Cambodia and to our demands.”

The King himself seemed pessimistic about the chances of his being able to solve the crisis, saying that only the three party leaders could do so.

“I cannot do anything more because the outcome depends on three men who each hold the key.­ I do not hold this key,” the King wrote. “And because neither the people nor the King have any way of ending this crisis, Cambodia…should appeal to Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, to come here and help us resolve the problem.”

King Sihanouk, often affectionately called the father of the nation, wrote that the second Kingdom of Cambodia is also the son of the UN.

“Since it was born in 1993, this ‘second Kingdom’ has never behaved itself. It is a ‘child’ whose health is worsening by the day,” the King wrote.“Please could Mother UN come and examine it and try to cure this great illness.”

The UN administered a peace process that culminated in the 1993 elections. Those polls, won by Funcinpec, yielded an uneasy coalition between former battlefield enemies Funcinpec and CPP. The coalition collapsed amid factional fighting July 5-6, 1997, and has since been dominated by the CPP.

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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