King Norodom Sihanouk said Friday that he would not mediate the selection of prime minister between the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party in the standoff that is preventing the formation of a new government.
In a statement posted on his Web site Friday, the King said he believed Sam Rainsy is ready to accept Hun Sen as prime minister.
“I will not accept to receive the SRP, Funcinpec, the CPP, to discuss with these three, or with one or two of these parties, this question of Samdech Hun Sen,” the King wrote.
It is up to Hun Sen and the CPP to negotiate the position of future prime minister, “if they so desire,” with Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, the King wrote. If any such talks are to take place, they should be held “far from me and the Royal Palace,” the King added.
The three parties have been unable to form a new government since the July 27 elections.
The King predicted in the statement that Hun Sen would remain in power for decades to come. Responding to unnamed critics, the King wrote that “they are obliged to submit to the law of our Strongman, which is probably going to reign, for decades more, over those in the depths of wretchedness.”
“It seems that Sam Rainsy is finally disposed to accept Samdech Hun Sen as head of the new [Royal Cambodian Government],” the King wrote.
However, Sam Rainsy on Sunday reiterated his objection to Hun Sen continuing as prime minister. “There can be nothing further than this in my mind,” he said. “I will not vote for Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh will not vote for Hun Sen,” he said. “I abide by the position of the Alliance of Democrats.”
But Sam Rainsy added: “I fully understand the position of the King.”
For the moment at least, the King’s withdrawal of the offer to mediate—which he made in September—does not present a major problem, Sam Rainsy said. But, he added, the King’s presence could be crucial if the stalemate continues.
The opposition leader compared the situation to that of 1998, when the government was not formed for four months after the election. “Now it has only been two months,” he said. “It’s better to have a good, effective government, [that is] better than the last 20 years,” he added. “It’s worth taking the time.”
Opposition party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang predicted that the King may again offer to mediate between the three parties. “In Cambodia nothing is final…. He has a role to play as father of the nation and he has brokered many deals before. He can play a very useful role.”
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Sunday. Neither could Hun Sen adviser Om Yentieng.
Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou declined on Sunday to comment on the King’s declaration that he would not act as mediator. “Traditionally Funcinpec does not comment on the King’s messages,” he said.
He appealed to the international community to intervene in the formation of a new government. “The situation really needs another really positive commitment from the international community,” he said. “They can’t just sit back and watch.”
Kassie Neou cited Japan as one country that had been particularly helpful in intervening in Cambodia’s past political crises.
Japan has no intention of playing the role of mediator, Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa said Sunday. “It’s Cambodia’s internal affairs,” he said. “We don’t take sides.”
The French Ministry for Foreign Affairs issued a statement Wednesday urging Cambodia to hasten the formation of a new government. The statement stressed France’s faith in the King’s ability to resolve the situation.
“[We] express all our confidence in the action of His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, [who is] responsible for the unity of the Kingdom and who has played an essential role in previous crises,” the statement said.
(Additional reporting by Clementine Wallace)