PM Faces Up To Criticism From F’pec

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday he accepted the recent criticism by Funcinpec officials that his government was failing to reduce poverty, root out corruption and protect the country’s borders.

Speaking on several topics regarding his CPP’s relationship with its royalist partners, Hun Sen told Radio Free Asia that despite strong criticism, the coalition was strong and Cambodia would likely have the same partner government in the foreseeable future.

“There are some members of National Assembly and senators who have expressed opinions. I do not consider that as a political dispute with our joint partner,” Hun Sen told RFA in an exclusive interview broadcast Wednesday.

“It is like what they said. We have to recognize the truth. If we dare not to accept the truth we cannot lead the royal government. I do not consider this an attack but freedom of expression with constructive meaning.”

The gains of the coalition government in the past several years were achieved by both partners, and one side alone should not lay claims to the success, Hun Sen said.

The premier was also frank on the future shape of Cambodian politics.

The CPP and Funcinpec coalition would be needed for the next 15 years, as no single party would be capable of mustering the two- thirds majority in the National Assembly necessary to take sole control of the legislature, he said.

Political rifts in Funcinpec would also hurt the CPP, he added.

“In such a situation, the CPP’s future vision wants to continue jointly with Funcinpec. So the CPP has no reason to be happy with a split in Funcinpec. The CPP and Funcinpec are like husband and wife,” Hun Sen said.

The prime minister also said he hoped Funcinpec could repair its political splits without interference from outside parties—a likely reference to speculation that opposition party leader Sam Rainsy has attempted to coax royalist members to his side.

“I think Funcinpec has the ability to solve that problem [but] the CPP will have concerns if the party cannot solve the internal issues,” he said.

Hun Sen’s conciliatory words clashed sharply with his statements in Kampot on Tuesday in which he warned political figures that they must follow the “one politic” or Cambodia could face the tragedies it experienced during the Lon Nol and Pol Pot regimes.

However, with the general election fast approaching and Funcinpec still hurting from its poor showing in February’s commune elections, royalist party officials say they will re-establish the party’s identity, even if this means further criticism of Hun Sen’s CPP in the runup to the election.

A senior Funcinpec official said on Wednesday that Hun Sen’s acceptance of their criticism fell short of action.

“We welcome his speech but we would like to see his theory exercised. We want to see real action not talk. Words are cheap,” the official said.

The official also said he sensed a warning in Hun Sen’s recent statements on maintaining political and social stability in Cam­bodia.

“There is a certain warning, a hint of warning. We are watching this,” the official said.

Long-standing CPP official and current National Assembly First Vice President Heng Samrin said on Wednesday the CPP would not be meeting this month to choose the party’s candidate to stand as premier in the 2003 general election.

Heng Samrin said that while he supported Hun Sen, the decision for candidacy was still up to the party’s powerful permanent committee and central committee, and hinted that Hun Sen may have some rivals for the post.

A second CPP official said the congress would likely take place in March, just months before the scheduled July 27, 2003, election.

Other senior CPP officials were unwilling to comment on the claims of a leadership challenge, saying such talk was “too serious.”

Hun Sen has laid claim on several occasions to the title of the CPP’s only candidate for premier, citing his young age and success in bringing peace and stability to Cambodia. He has also joked about other candidates being too old for the job.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle)




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