King Confronts Parties on Objections to Deal

King Norodom Sihanouk summoned leaders of the three political parties to an impromptu meeting Tuesday evening at the Royal Palace, asking them to testify before television cameras as to whether he forced Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party into a deal on the formation of a new government.

Appearing on state-run TVK, the King asked leaders of Funcin­pec and the Sam Rainsy Party whether they had any objections to a handwritten communique issued by the King, which outlined a tentative agreement between the parties and the CPP after their Nov 5 summit. He also asked whether they had been forced to sign the agreement.

Both Funcinpec Secretary-Gen­eral Prince Norodom Sirivudh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy answered that the handwritten communique had, in fact, ex­pressed their agreement and that they were not forced.

“On behalf of the Sam Rainsy Party as well as Funcinpec, our Alli­ance, we want a three-party government with a new prime minister. Your Majesty did not force us into a coalition,” Sam Rainsy said.

Asked by King Sihanouk to “please speak straightforwardly,” Prince Sirivudh said that nothing in the communique differed from what was agreed upon by the three parties last week.

CPP Minister of Cabinet Sok An, who was present on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim, added that the communique “reflects the facts of the meeting.”

Funcinpec leader Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh and Prime Min­ister Hun Sen were out of the country and did not attend the meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting came as a response to an interview with a Funcinpec official published Tuesday in The Cambodia Daily, in which the official said that leaders of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Democrats had been pressured into the initial agreement for a tripartite government and accepted the deal because they could not object in the presence of the King.

“Somebody in the [Nov 5] meeting said that I unfairly forced them into a coalition with the CPP for a tripartite government,” King Sihanouk said Tuesday. “I did not force them.”

After receiving the responses from the leaders, the King said, “You offer me justice.”

The King saved his strongest attack for The Cambodia Daily.

“Don’t let The Cambodia Daily mock King Sihanouk as a comedian,” the King said. “Don’t let the newspaper make our hearts suffer and divide our nation.”

Both Prince Sirivudh and Sam Rainsy also rejected the statements made by the Funcinpec official quoted in the article.

“I am sorry that the Daily did not report the facts,” Prince Sirivudh told the King.

“What the foreign newspaper said distorts the facts,” Sam Rainsy said.

The King later added, “Please, all three, you meet and talk about the government.”

The leaders did not speak to reporters after their meeting with the King.

Although the three parties last week tentatively agreed to form a new tripartite government and accept the CPP’s right to nominate its candidate for prime minister, Alliance officials have since said the deal is subject to their approval of the new government’s policies as well as several other conditions.

The Alliance also issued a statement Thursday stating that they could not guarantee that Hun Sen, CPP’s candidate for premier, will be approved as the new prime min­ister by members of the Assem­bly.

The statement also said Funcin­pec had not agreed to a condition in the post-talks communique that said the CPP’s acceptance of Prince Norodom Rana­riddh as Assembly president was contingent on Funcinpec’s acceptance of Hun Sen as prime minister.

“To this date, neither Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh] nor Funcinpec has accepted the condition,” the Alliance of Democrats wrote in the statement, titled “The True Outcome of the Summit Meeting in the Royal Palace.”

“I did not tell you to accept Hun Sen as prime minister,” King Siha­nouk said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I only said that you stop rejecting Samdech Hun Sen. You let CPP propose whomever they wish.”

Meanwhile, in a statement posted on his Web site Tuesday, King Sihanouk asked that his successor be appointed through a simple majority vote by the Throne Council to avoid dispute among the council members in the event of his death.

By adopting a simple majority vote, “there will not be any possible sabotage of the statute of our Cambodia in so far as [it being a] constitutional monarchy,” the King wrote.

A law has not yet been established to determine the organization and operation of the Throne Council, including how many members of the council are needed to agree on the next monarch.

According to the Constitution, there are nine members in the council. Under the King’s proposal, his successor would require the approval of five council members through a secret ballot.

King Sihanouk wrote that Hun Sen has said Cambodia would always remain a constitutional monarchy and would not become a republic. But, the King said, while the Throne Council was not fully functional, CPP President Chea Sim would act as head of state if the King were to die.

King Sihanouk repeated that if he were to die before the three main political parties could agree on the new government and National Assembly, the Throne Council would not be prepared to select a new monarch.

“[T]o suppose that the present political ‘deadlock’ and the pres­ent political crisis goes on and that, before the day of their happy ‘resolution,’ I (N Sihanouk) pass from life to death, there won’t be a Coronation Council to elect the new King,” he wrote. “At my age…I must expect to die in the near future. But if the heavens decide to give satisfaction to the Khmer people who do not cease to make prayers for that I be more than 100 years of age, I will not abandon you, my respected and well-loved compatriots, and will serve you until my death.”

The King turned 81 on Oct 31.

In response to the King’s letter, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay, who submitted a draft bill on the Throne Council in 1999, said the next monarch should re­quire the consensus of the council.

“The government needs two-thirds majority approval [from the Assembly members]. We don’t have to let the King be selected under a level lower than the government’s,” Son Chhay said, speak­ing to reporters after an Alliance task force meeting Tuesday morning.

Son Chhay added that Prince Norodom Sihamoni, son of King Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath, is an “important candidate to reign after.”

“We have seen that Prince Siha­moni has good education, gentle character and understanding of cultural sectors,” he said. (Addi­tional reporting by Wency Leung)

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