Hopes for a solution to Cambodia’s post-election crisis dimmed further Wednesday as the rival parties clashed over the site of a proposed summit and King Norodom Sihanouk declared himself powerless to intervene.
Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Wednesday asked his father, the King, to convene a summit to break the deadlock. But he asked that the meeting be at the royal residence in Beijing, saying he feared for his safety in Cambodia.
“At present, I understand that the summit inside Cambodia cannot ensure safety and provide a neutral atmosphere,” Prince Ranariddh wrote from Bangkok.
However, the King wrote back that he cannot call a summit on his own. He wrote that he would discuss the matter with CPP President Chea Sim and CPP Vice President Hun Sen, but added “if there is no agreement between the three parties, Papa cannot decide to do anything.”
Sieng Lapresse, spokesman for the holdover government, accused opposition leaders Wednesday of trying to internationalize the deadlock. He said the government would not pay to send delegates to a summit abroad.
“It is a Cambodian issue and it has to be held inside Cambodia. The government believes that it is not good to hold a summit in Beijing…Cambodia is not under any foreign influence.”
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith also has repeatedly said the party opposes a Beijing summit. However, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the party will go along with whatever the King suggests.
Sieng Lapresse dismissed opposition claims that they may not be safe in Cambodia.
“Justice exists here,” he said. “The opposition is afraid to meet inside Cambodia because of security issues, but the government has never made any threats or intimidated the opposition and it guarantees their freedom of speech and travel.”
In fact, though, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen last month threatened to have several opposition leaders arrested. He also temporarily banned dozens of opposition figures from leaving the country.
The two main opposition leaders, Funcinpec’s Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, head of the self-named third party elected to parliament, have been outside the country since Sept 25.
Political analyst Kao Kim Hourn lamented Wednesday that the parties could not even agree on a venue for a summit.
“This is only a question of procedure, let alone substantive issues. This means we still have a long way to go,” Kao Kim Hourn said. “Cambodia continues to be hostage to this ongoing political bickering.”
The CPP won a majority in parliament in the disputed July 26 vote, but needs Funcinpec’s support to gain the two-thirds majority vote to confirm a new government. Funcinpec has refused to join a new coalition unless the CPP makes major concessions. The CPP-dominated administration led by Hun Sen continues to rule in the meantime.
Failure to form a new government has kept vital foreign aid from resuming, delayed Cambodia’s entry into Asean and kept the country’s UN seat in limbo.