King Plans for More Talks Between Parties

King Norodom Sihanouk has scheduled a second meeting of the three main political parties for next week, anticipating that the first scheduled meeting to resolve the government deadlock on Wednes­­day could end in failure.

King Sihanouk announced Sun­day that he would convene a new meeting at the Royal Palace the morning of Nov 13, after “certain high-level politicians” in­formed him that Wednesday’s talks do not fall on a good date “from an astrological point of view.”

“In case of failure on Nov 5, 2003, I will reconvene the same ‘great’” leaders’ meeting, the King said in a statement on his Web site.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, however, will not be able to attend a meeting Nov 13 because he will be in Burma for a summit on economic cooperation, CPP spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said Mon­day.

“The most important thing is if we can reach something on the 5th,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Wednesday’s meeting will mark the first time all three parties officially discuss the formation of a new government and National As­sembly, which has been delayed for more than three months.

But some politicians and political analysts said they predicted little would be resolved Wednes­day.

“The Paris peace negotiations in 1991 took three years, so one summit meeting does not solve the problem,” said Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou.

He said that while the CPP wanted to take a “holistic” ap­proach to the negotiations, Fun­cinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party wanted to discuss only the formation of the Assembly.

Under the worst-case scenario, he said, “the parties don’t talk about the same subject.”

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Ou Bunlong, who was named one of the delegates to the meeting, said he hoped that the formation of the Assembly could be discussed first.

But he said, he would wait for King Sihanouk to set the agenda for the talks.

Hun Sen adviser Om Yentieng echoed those comments.

“The King is the host who presides over the meeting…so we will listen carefully to how he handles the situation and we’ll discuss according to his wishes,” he said.

Though optimistic about the meeting, Om Yentieng said even if talks fail, the current government would continue to function as normal. “I don’t think anything will get worse than this,” he said.

On Monday, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay sent a request to the King asking that Wednesday’s meeting be broadcast live on national television and radio. “The talks affect people’s lives in the present and future, so they have the right to hear and see it with their own eyes,” he wrote in a letter.

Chea Vannath, president of the Cen­ter for Social Development, said the two main barriers to ending the current deadlock were the calls of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party for the removal of Hun Sen as prime minister and the creation of a three-party government.

A quick resolution of either demand appears unlikely, though an increasing number of people are warming to the idea of a three-party government, she said.

But, Chea Vannath said: “To have the three parties sit together at the same table, it’s already success.”

Kao Kim Hourn, executive director for the Cambodian Insti­tute for Cooperation and Peace, said he expected the parties would discuss power-sharing on a general level at Wednesday’s meeting.

While he, too, was skeptical any firm agreements could be made this week, he said that the parties will have to signal that the political process was moving ahead be­cause time is running out.

“Any further delay in the formation of the new government would not look good on the present situation in Cambodia,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)

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