King Hurt by Rejection of Meeting Offer

King Norodom Sihanouk called the CPP and Funcinpec’s re­fusal to hold an urgent meeting with him in North Korea a “slap in the face” Saturday, as Fun­cin­pec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh left Cambodia once again, this time for the US.

The King, who last week urged the three main political parties to meet with him in Pyongyang to resolve the government’s nearly 10-month long political deadlock, said he had hoped that the parties’ representatives would attend to be “responsible to the voters.”

The CPP and Funcinpec, however, responded by requesting that the Pyongyang meeting be delayed so they could try to re­solve disputes over the formation of a new government on their own.

“They answered in an unethical way, which confuses the national and international communities,” King Sihanouk said, in a message posted on his Web site.

Despite his apparent frustration, however, the King added: “[Now] I regard this slap as an un­im­portant problem because I my­self am never angry or blame anyone.”

Prince Ranariddh left Saturday for a weeklong “private” visit in

the US, according to Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou.

Kassie Neou said Prince Ranariddh’s departure was “no problem,” since he had appointed Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh in charge of negotiations between the royalists and the CPP in Prince Ranariddh’s absence.

Since November, Prince Ranariddh has made numerous lengthy trips abroad. He last returned to Cambodia May 4 after a month-long stay in France, where he claimed to have been teaching at a university.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith, however, said Prince Ranariddh’s most recent departure would delay a resolution between the two parties, which are currently wrangling over a policy platform for the new government.

“The prince’s departure can delay the talks because we have defined when the two task forces [appointed to negotiate on behalf of each party] cannot solve some points, we must leave those points for Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen to consider,” Khieu Kanharith said Sunday.

On Friday, the two parties agreed to select new village chiefs for all regions in the country before 2005, Khieu Kanharith said.

According to the 2001 Law on Commune Administration, commune councilors are responsible for selecting new village chiefs following a commune election, though the process of selection is not defined. Traditionally, village chiefs are informally chosen by the local communities, though, according to political observers, most belong to the CPP.

New chiefs will be appointed, not elected, based on the results of the 2002 commune elections, Khieu Kanharith said.

CPP won 61 percent, or 2.6 million commune councilor positions in the 2002 elections. Funcinpec won 22 percent, or 947,639 positions, and the Sam Rainsy Party won 17 percent, or 715,627 positions. Control over Cambodia’s 13,406 villages would be dispersed between the three parties by those same percentages, Khieu Kanharith said.

Some political analysts, however, objected to the plan Sunday, claiming that selecting village chiefs by appointment would only encourage them to act on behalf of their parties, instead of their local communities.

“This selection is not good for good governance and development in the local community,” said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

“If the new government cannot hold elections, the government should try its best to select the new village chief based on whom the villagers like best,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party’s Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang, however, defended the agreement Sunday, saying it would offer a change to the traditionally CPP-dominated village chief positions without hurting government coffers.

“We are afraid that the government doesn’t have the budget, so we agree to appoint the village chiefs” instead of electing them, he said.

But, he added, the government should hold elections for those positions in future mandates.



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