King Warns Opposition Against Revolution

King Norodom Sihanouk on Wednesday warned followers of opposition leader Sam Rainsy not to attempt an overthrow of their country’s leader, as citizens of the former Soviet bloc state of Geor­gia succeeded in doing earlier this week.

“I do not counsel the ultra-Sam Rainsyists to use the people’s power here to try to overturn our Strongman [whom] his formidable army, police and ‘Pagoda Boys’ surely will not betray,” King Siha­nouk wrote in a statement on his Web site.

The King said he had learned of the fall of Georgia’s President Eduard Shevardnadze through television broadcasts on Monday.

Shevardnadze announced his resignation Sunday, a day after pro­testers seized parliament and rallied tens of thousands of opposition supporters to take control of other government bodies, while groups of military soldiers de­fect­ed to join the demonstrations. The president’s ouster followed alleg­edly fraudulent Nov 2 parliamentary elections, which prompted the public—fed up with ram­pant corruption, poverty and crime—to join the bloodless uprising.

“Today, this dear [S]hevardnadze is obliged to take his retreat, a well merited rest,” King Sihanouk said.

Responding to the King’s letter, Sam Rainsy said Wednesday that Cambodia was not ready to follow Georgia’s lead—not for a few years at least.

“The situation is not ripe,” he said, saying authorities here would not hesitate to use armed forces to violently clamp down on protesters as they did during the 1998 post-election demonstrations and in recent garment factory strikes.

But, Sam Rainsy predicted, once the military and police were suf­ficiently independent of the ruling party, a public uprising would likely occur. He added that the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec’s Alliance of Democrats was pushing to reform Cambodia’s armed forces as a condition for its joining a coalition government with the CPP.

“If such a reform [in the military and police] is implemented, I think the people will take to the streets,” Sam Rainsy said.

He added: “I think one day, in the not too distant future, there will be a similar people’s uprising and a similar outcome as…in Georgia.”

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanha­rith said Wednesday the opposition party did not have sufficient public support to stage such a demonstration.

“The CPP [has] more supporters than the two parties together,” he said, adding that, unlike in Geor­gia, international observers had largely approved of Cambo­dia’s July 27 national elections, which were won by the ruling party.

Khieu Kanharith maintained that the country’s armed forces and civil servants were already re­quired to be politically neutral and were not tied to any particular party. “If Sam Rainsy becomes prime minister, the troops will follow him,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sam Rainsy said he was “calming down” some of his supporters who were inspired by this week’s events in Georgia, adding that he urged his party to refrain from protests during the negotiation process.

Striking an optimistic note, Sam Rainsy said he believed that talks with the CPP aimed at forming the new government and Na­tional As­sem­­bly would proceed within weeks.

Plans for tripartite negotiations broke down last week as Funcin­pec demanded that the CPP drop a defamation lawsuit against its party president, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The CPP had filed a court complaint against the prince on Nov 4, charging that Prince Ranariddh had falsely implicated Prime Minister Hun Sen in last month’s shooting death of pro-Funcinpec radio journalist Chuor Chetharith.

Sam Rainsy said Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Noro­dom Sirivudh was drafting a letter Wed­nesday to CPP Secretary-Gen­eral Say Chhum stating that Prince Ranariddh had not implicated Hun Sen in the killing.




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