PM Outlines Continued Rule, Not Talks

Saying further talks are useless and he can no longer remain “hos­tage” to opposition maneuvering, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen outlined his policies Thursday for his administration’s continued rule. 

“The suffering and hardship of the people has prompted the current government to free itself from being hostage to the politicians in the minority and to fulfill their work in a good manner,” Hun Sen said at a ceremony marking the seventh anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords. “I think that we have wasted a lot of valuable time.”

Although he said he is still optimistic a new government might be formed soon, Hun Sen offered no concession to the coalition-shy opposition and said he had a “historic duty” to move forward on his own.

He then outlined a seven-point plan for heightened security, new irrigation projects, a crackdown on illegal logging and sweeping reforms of tax and judicial systems—all reforms that international donor groups have been pushing for.

A Western diplomat who heard the speech said Hun Sen seemed to be saying he is tired of going through the tedious negotiations following the July 26 elections and is ready to abandon the pro­cess and go it alone if Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party do not agree to form a government on his terms.

“I think he’s trying to send a message to the opposition that they don’t have as much leverage as they might think,” the diplomat said. “That is the message most people heard.”

Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah acknowledged that Hun Sen has the power to continue to rule, but he insisted the opposition still has some leverage in denying Hun Sen the international legitimacy that he had hoped the elections would give his government.

“You cannot prevent him from moving forward. It is up to him,” Tol Lah said. “You could not prevent Hun Sen from doing anything he wants to do.

“But if they want recognition for the next government…that is different.”

Hun Sen on Thursday ap­peared to be courting the international community with a reform plan that matched almost perfectly the issues that international do­nors have complained about for years.

“It seemed to me that he was trying to address what are the serious concerns in the international community—logging and finance,” the Western diplomat said. “Maybe he hoped that would be well received.”

Asked if such a strategy might work, the diplomat responded that the government, which has promised to rein in corruption and rampant deforestation before, would first have to deliver on the reforms.

“The proof is in the results. These are not things you can fake.”

Cambodia has been in political crisis since shortly after the July 26 elections.

The CPP won and has a slim majority in parliament, but opposition allies Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have protested that the ruling party used intimidation and fraud to win. They have demanded concessions including the presidency of the National Assembly in exchange for the two-thirds majority vote needed to confirm a new government.

Hun Sen on Thursday blasted opposition leaders, many of whom have dual citizenship, as “opportunists and extremists who have no foundation among the Cambodian people.” He said their refusal to form a coalition proves they do not have the good of Cambodia in mind.

“Only those who want to prolong the anarchy and instability prevent the efforts to set up a new government,” Hun Sen said.

Tol Lah, however, retorted that the CPP has so far made no meaningful concessions. He said that in 1993, when the positions were reversed and Funcinpec had won the polls, the royalist party agreed to hand over the National Assembly presidency to the CPP in the spirit of national reconciliation.

“We have made sacrifices already and put the interests of the party aside in the better interests of the nation,” he said.

He said Hun Sen’s threat to continue in power indefinitely would not push Funcinpec and the smaller Sam Rainsy Party into an unfair deal.

“For us, we would rather have long negotiations instead of a short coalition government,” Tol Lah said. “We had experience in the last five years already.”

The Funcinpec-CPP power-sharing government formed after the 1993 elections collapsed in July 1997 when troops loyal to co-prime ministers Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh clashed in Phnom Penh. As a result, Prince Ranariddh was ousted from power and spent several months in exile before being allowed to return for the elections under a Japan-brokered deal.

The prince and Sam Rainsy have been outside Cambodia since Sept 25 and have refused to attend a summit in Phnom Penh, saying they fear for their safety.

 

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