Parties Stand Firm as Assembly Deadline Nears

A day after King Norodom Sihanouk criticized the three main pol­itical parties for throwing the country into a “national crisis,” Fun­cinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party on Thursday pinned blame on the CPP for the inability to re­solve the current political standoff.

“It’s a fair assessment that the parties should take responsibility,” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said. But, he said, the CPP has resisted negotiations to reach a solution.

“The Alliance of Democrats is ready to talk,” he said.

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh also pointed to the CPP for setting a precedent for rejecting election results, Funcinpec spokes­man Kassie Neou said.

“The prince said this bad habit started from 1993,” Kassie Neou said. He added that Funcinpec was deprived of its victory in the Untac-organized election by the CPP. “The blame should go to the CPP.”

CPP spokesmen Khieu Kanha­rith and Om Yentieng declined to comment.

In a statement, King Sihanouk said Wednesday that the parties “show themselves incapable or unwilling to realize a compromise.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Thursday said his party would not budge from its final concession for attending Saturday’s opening of the National As­sem­bly. The party is calling for the suspension of two Assem­bly seats in Svay Rieng and Kom­pong Thom until a ballot recount can be conducted.

Funcinpec officials have also said they will not join the meeting unless 120 members attend. They also demand that it be presided over by King Sihanouk at the Royal Palace.

But, Kassie Neou said, “The fact that Funcinpec does not attend does not mean it gives up its seats.” All members eventually will be sworn in, he said.

Calling Saturday’s meeting “illegal,” Sam Rainsy said his party’s elected parliamentarians would keep their promise not to join the opening session unless their demands are met.

“The National Assembly meeting doesn’t comply with the law. The National Assembly meeting belongs to the CPP, not the nation,” Sam Rainsy told reporters after a ceremony honoring the victims of the March 30, 1997, grenade attack.

More than 200 people attended the ceremony, held in front of the Assembly in observance of Thurs­day’s Pchum Ben festival.

At least 15 people were killed in the attack that was aimed at a rally called by Sam Rainsy.

“They sacrificed their lives in order to help the nation to survive and to develop the society toward the democratic process,” Sam Rainsy said during the ceremony, at which he was flanked by about 30 bodyguards.

He is usually followed by only about four bodyguards, Ung Bun-Ang said. He said extra security was provided “just as a precaution.”

“We have to take Mr Sam Rainsy’s security very seriously,” he said. But, he said, no threats have been made against the party president’s safety.

Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party officials said they would meet this morning to discuss their strategy for resolving the standoff.

(Addi­tional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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