King Says He Won’t Return

King Norodom Sihanouk on Thurs­day scrapped his plans to re­­turn to Cambodia before the Khmer New Year, saying he will leave the three main political parties to work out the formation of a new government on their own.

“The current political situation is becoming like poison and some pol­iticians are angry with me be­cause everyday, I write articles about their parties’ policies, which makes the political crisis even more complicated,” the King said in a statement.

Before leaving for Beijing in late January to receive medical treatment, King Sihanouk said he would return to Phnom Penh in time for the April 10-15 Khmer New Year celebrations.

Instead, he said Thursday: “I would like between April, May… 2004 to stay in [North] Korea until the current political situation allows me to go back.” He did not mention a return date.

His announcement comes as Funcinpec and CPP officials prepare for Sunday’s scheduled ne­go­tiations over the terms of a new co­alition government, which Prince Ranariddh and Prime Min­ister Hun Sen tentatively agreed to establish last week.

Though opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Monday also indicated his party would join such a coalition government, opposition and Fun­cinpec officials have said the deal with the CPP is still uncertain.

Many had expected the King to mediate a resolution to the eight-month-long political impasse.

Reached by telephone Thurs­day, Sam Rainsy expressed concern over news of the King’s decision. “I’m worried,” he said. “Pros­pects for a quick resolution seem more removed…. [The King’s] ve­ry presence would make people ne­gotiate seriously. He is the symbol of national unity.”

Hun Sen adviser Om Yentieng on Thursday added: “The political so­lution cannot be made without the King’s presence.” He also de­fended the CPP, saying, “none of those politicians [who criticized the King] are CPP members.”

Funcinpec’s spokesman Kassie Neou and Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh, two of the few officials whom the party has allowed to speak to the press, could not be reached Thursday.


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