King Norodom Sihanouk has offered his palace and royal guard as security for opposition leaders Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy if the two return to Phnom Penh for coalition negotiations this week.
The King informed diplomats that Prince Ranariddh, his son, could be escorted by his own bodyguards and stay in the Royal Palace compound “where his security could be assured” if he returns for a summit with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim.
The monarch offered the same treatment for Sam Rainsy, leader of the smaller, self-named opposition party.
However, King Sihanouk said any meeting in Cambodia to end the current political deadlock must occur before Nov 14, the deadline the monarch said his doctors have given for his return to Beijing for medical treatment.
The King relayed the information in a follow-up message to Cambodia’s diplomatic corps after a 2-1/2-hour meeting with diplomats Saturday. The opposition leaders have not officially responded.
The monarch warned separately of a conflict of “catastrophic” consequences should he respond to “pressure” to try to force Hun Sen to leave government and to unilaterally grant amnesties to prominent opposition figures who have fled the country.
“Hun Sen would not shy from fighting [these two demands] vigorously with all the great ‘means’ in his possession,” the monarch said in an interview in his official bulletin. “Neither our people nor the international community wishes a Hun Sen-Sihanouk conflict.”
Hun Sen sent a letter to the King on Sunday expressing support for the monarch’s offers of security for Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy.
“I am firmly convinced that Your Majesty’s gesture and opinion…could provide a golden opportunity for the country to move forward,” Hun Sen wrote.
Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy left Cambodia on Sept 25 and have refused to return for negotiations saying they fear for their safety. Their opposition parties have refused to support the two-thirds majority vote needed to form a new government, saying the CPP won the July 26 polls through fraud and intimidation.
The Prince was told of the King’s offer on Sunday but did not yet have any response, Funcinpec spokesman May Sam-Oeun said.
However, Funcinpec leaders are still waiting for a written guarantee for their safety before agreeing to any meeting in Cambodia, May Sam-Oeun said.
“We support the initiative of His Majesty the King but [the CPP] should give us a sincere proposal for our security,” May Sam-Oeun said.
While May Sam-Oeun did not dismiss the possibility of the Prince returning for a summit this week, he pointed out that there were only a few days until the King’s departure date and that the party still supports a meeting outside the country.
In the King’s message, he also said he could host a summit in Beijing with the permission of the Chinese government. The CPP has repeatedly refused to meet outside of Cambodia.
On Friday, the government responded to Funcinpec’s request for a guarantee for their security by reiterating that all politicians have total freedom of movement.
Opposition leaders slammed the statement, calling it “empty” and saying it offered nothing new.
Also on Friday, Hun Sen called for opposition politicians to return saying that some were playing up safety concerns to gain political leverage.
“The issue of security is not your important one, it is just the political pretext,” Hun Sen said at a Water Festival celebration specially arranged for him in Neak Loeung.
“Your return is valuable to contribute to building Cambodia’s future. But if you do not return, Cambodia won’t die at this time.”
On TVK Sunday, the monarch explained to viewers that he had to go to China for medical checkups every three or four months. Although this trip might keep him out of the country until January, the King said he would return “if the people and the nation need me to come back quickly.”
The 76-year-old monarch postponed a scheduled trip to Beijing earlier this month after receiving warnings that his departure might further destabilize the political situation.
(Additional reporting by Ham Samnang and Marc Levy)