With Cambodia’s longest post-election deadlock showing little signs of a quick end, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Thursday he hoped a new National Assembly and government could begin functioning by September.
After opening the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organization conference at the Hotel Cambodiana on Wednesday morning, Prince Ranariddh told reporters that the deadlock, now in its ninth month, should be resolved before the next AIPO meeting, scheduled for
Sept 7, 2004. “If we could finish the work before the next AIPO conference is convened in September, that would be great,” he said. “We need a new legitimate National Assembly to function.”
Meanwhile Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed skepticism over a quick resolution. “If a government is established quickly, it will be lucky for the people,” he said at the Council of Ministers, as broadcast by Apsara radio.
Hun Sen also threatened to shake up the dispersal of government duties, saying he will order CPP officials to take on some responsibilities now held by Funcinpec ministers.
“Some Cabinet members from Funcinpec did not come to work and come to the Cabinet meetings,” he said. “I will assign CPP officials to do their work.”
Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou declined immediate comment on the premier’s announcement.“We’ll wait until we consult the boss first,” he said.
Though politicians initially expressed hope to resolve the deadlock before King Norodom Sihanouk left Cambodia for China in January, and then again before the April Khmer New Year ceremony, both passed without a breakthrough.
And as the one-year anniversary nears, marking the last time the Assembly held a working session, in late May 2003, talks between Funcinpec and the CPP were scuttled this week when the CPP accused the pro-Funcinpec Ta Prohm radio of violating a media truce between the two parties.
At a meeting Thursday afternoon, Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh and his CPP counterpart, Say Chhum, signed an agreement to resume talks .
They also renewed a halt on radio and television broadcasts critical of each others’ parties, a copy of the agreement said.
Afterward, Prince Sirivudh boarded a plane for France Thursday evening, Funcinpec officials said. Prince Ranariddh told reporters Prince Sirivudh left Cambodia “for personal reasons.” He did not disclose when Prince Sirivudh will return.
Despite the lengthy deadlock, Phnom Penh residents interviewed Thursday said they were unconcerned.“It is not my business, it’s the top leaders’ business. They should compromise, but what can I do?” said Lor Kimlun, 21, a municipal police officer.
“We just do business as usual,” said Prak Suon, 50, a Cintri street cleaner. “It’s up to the powerful people to work out the problem.”