Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Wednesday defended last weekend’s summit agreement with the CPP, saying that it was an important step to bringing peace and stability to the war-weary country.
“Hun Sen got what he wants. He now gets the position of prime minister and the [international] legitimacy through the election,” the Funcinpec president said to reporters at Pochentong Airport after a short visit to Bangkok. “Funcinpec will see that we together…push for peace and stability…and respect the will of the people and human rights and democracy.”
The prince added that there was “great pressure from the world community” to form the new government and break the months-long, acrimonious post-election deadlock.
But in an apparent concession to the CPP, Prince Ranariddh agreed that resistance commander Nhiek Bun Chhay would not be allowed “by law” to return to his position as RCAF deputy chief of staff, despite his promised royal amnesty.
Nhiek Bun Chhay told Kyodo News Service on Saturday that he wanted to resume his previous rank and position with RCAF, and a Funcinpec official was adamant over the weekend that it would happen.
CPP military officials, though, have maintained that convicted military personnel are not permitted back into the armed forces. Nhiek Bun Chhay was convicted last March of conspiring with the Khmer Rouge to overthrow the government and of conspiring to illegally purchase and import weapons into Cambodia.
Prince Ranariddh maintained Wednesday that Nhiek Bun Chhay nevertheless is “very happy” and supportive of the agreement to reintegrate several thousand resistance troops. The prince said he plans to call Defense co-Minister Tea Banh in efforts to accelerate the integration process.
The prince made it clear Wednesday that he does not want included in the new coalition government former supporters who abandoned him after the fighting in July 1997.
“I will not be pleased or support any candidate like [First Prime Minister] Ung Huot….they have to be responsible for what they have done. They better go back to…Australia.”
A summit hastily convened by King Norodom Sihanouk over the weekend led to a basic agreement over the formation of the new government.
The parties agreed to vote for Hun Sen as prime minister and Prince Ranariddh president of the National Assembly. Under the agreement, an upper house, or Senate, will be created and headed by former Assembly head, CPP President Chea Sim.
The CPP and Funcinpec also have agreed to co-chair the ministries of Interior, Defense and Cabinet.
Under discussion is a proposal under which Funcinpec would head the ministries of Information and Justice, while the CPP would get Finance and Foreign Affairs. “So it appears that we are going through a 50-50 formula” in allocating ministry portfolios, the prince said.
Prince Ranariddh said that talks among the parties to hammer out the details of the agreements would start today.
It is still unclear exactly the role the Sam Rainsy Party will take in the new government. The prince said he did his best in proposing at the summit that the Sam Rainsy Party get a vice president of the National Assembly, “but the CPP has opposed it.”
Some believe that the Sam Rainsy Party could best serve as opposition outside the new coalition.
Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Peace and Cooperation, said Wednesday that he felt the summit came in the nick of time to end the political crisis.
“It was a significant breakthrough for Cambodia,” Kao Kim Hourn said. “Judging from there, the summit is a win-win for all sides—even Sam Rainsy—because now the political environment is much more conducive to open dialogue, consultation and, ultimately, national reconciliation.”
(Additional reporting by Jeff Smith)