Parties Set to Meet Amid Skepticism

Ahead of this morning’s scheduled meeting of the three main political parties, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng on Tuesday urged Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party to put aside their post-election demands for the sake of the country.

“We all need to give importance to the national interest to protect our nation,” he said, speaking at the opening ceremony of a pagoda in Battambang province.

Sar Kheng, the co-minister of Interior and one of the CPP delegates to this morning’s talks on resolving the government deadlock, added that he was optimistic that the parties could reach some common ground.

“This is a positive step to solve the problem,” he said.

Today’s meeting, which is to be held at the Royal Palace and moderated by King Noro­dom Siha­nouk, will be the first time all three parties discuss the formation of the new government and National Assembly.

But some politicians and political analysts expressed doubt that any firm agreements will be made, saying expectations for the meeting are low.

“We expect the best and the worst,” CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday. “The best means you sit down together under the chairmanship of the King…. The worst is some political party can make the excuse not to go” at the last minute.

The King has called for a second meeting of the three parties on Nov 13 if no progress is made.

Last week, the King said he would also convene a subsequent meeting in December and another in April if the political deadlock remains unresolved.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, however, is scheduled to be in Burma next week for an economic cooperation summit, which would prevent him from attending the Nov 13 meeting.

Hun Sen’s expected absence will allow talks to progress more smoothly, opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay said Tuesday.

“It’ll be easier for [Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alli­ance of Democrats] to talk be­cause then it’s only between the three party leaders,” he said. He add­ed that Hun Sen’s presence this morning “could be a bit of a setback.”

During a gathering of 50 Fun­cinpec and Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians at Funcinpec headquarters Tuesday, leaders of the two parties vowed to stick to their demand for a three-party government without Hun Sen.

“A new government must not include a prime minister who threatens people,” Funcinpec Pres­ident Prince Norodom Rana­riddh told reporters. The prince was referring to February’s legal proceedings by Hun Sen against Funcinpec parliamentarian Prin­cess Norodom Vacheara. Hun Sen later dropped the case.

Prince Ranariddh added: “If we are outside the government, we stay together. If both of us join the government, we join together.”

Despite winning 73 of the 123 Assembly seats in the election, the CPP is nine short of the number needed to govern alone.

Funcinpec parliamentarians on Tuesday unveiled a proposal for a series of amendments to the internal regulation of the Assembly, which they said they will bring to the negotiations today.

The amendments focused on Assembly procedures, including a clause that would make it mandatory for parliamentarians and Cab­i­net ministers to show up for regular government and legislative meetings.


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