Parliament Negotiations Rescheduled

Efforts to begin negotiations on the formation of the National Assembly were thwarted Tues­day as Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party declined to attend a meeting of the three parties proposed by the CPP.Funcinp

ec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Democrats instead suggested members of an Assembly task force meet Thurs­day at the Royal Palace, opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay said. CPP officials said they would accept the new date.

Reasons for the cancellation of Tuesday’s talks and subsequent rescheduling of the meeting, how­ever, remain unclear.
Only hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin, CPP and Sam Rainsy Party politicians said they were waiting for Funcinpec parliamentarian Kol Pheng, the party’s main task force delegate, to decide whether he would attend.
Kol Pheng later countered that he had not received an official invitation from the CPP. Son Chhay said, “I do not know what Funcinpec is trying to do…but we support them.” On Monday, some Funcinpec officials said they were holding out for the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen to drop a court complaint against their party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
According to CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith, the complaint was made to Phnom Penh Municipal Court over Prince Ranariddh who, he claimed, had defamed and falsely accused Hun Sen of being involved in last month’s shooting of pro-Funcinpec radio journalist Chuor Chetharith.

Khieu Kanharith on Tuesday gave no indication that his party would withdraw its complaint. “Why should CPP drop it?” he said. CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said the complaint was filed before the parties first summit on Nov 5 with the King, during which all three parties agreed on the basis of their future negotiations. The court complaint, therefore, had no bearing on talks planned for this week. “It is completely separate,” Sar Kheng said.

A court official on Monday said the court could not proceed with its investigation into the complaint, because Prince Ranariddh, who was sworn in to the Assembly Oct 4, was protected by parliamentary immunity.

“His immunity needs to be lifted before the court can charge him,” the court official said. “Even to summon to question him, the court cannot do it.” Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou declined to comment on the issue Monday. In a statement Monday, King Norodom Sihanouk offered the Royal Palace as a “neutral place’ for the three parties to hold their meetings.

An additional meeting of a second task force to discuss the formation of the government has been proposed by the CPP for Friday,  Khieu Kanharith said. It is not yet certain whether that meeting will proceed, he said. (Additional reporting by Phann Ana and Wency Leung)

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