After a three-month absence, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned to Cambodia Friday with an upbeat message on restarting negotiations to form a new government, but also warned that a continued stalemate could lead to new elections.
“Samdech Hun Sen decided to withdraw the complaint against myself,” Prince Ranariddh told dozens of jostling reporters outside the VIP terminal at Phnom Penh International Airport. “This withdrawal is an appropriate basis for negotiations…to resolve the political crisis. Funcinpec also decided not to appeal to the court regarding the lawsuit against Samdech Hun Sen.”
Hun Sen lodged the court complaint against Prince Ranariddh in November following the murder of pro-Funcinpec journalist Chuor Chetharith, which, the royalist leader alleged, the prime minister incited.
Some 400 royalist and opposition party officials and supporters greeted Prince Ranariddh at the airport on Friday. With opposition party leader Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh standing close behind, Prince Ranariddh said that he could see progress being made in the talks. But if the negotiations failed and the political stalemate continued, the only alternative would be to hold new elections, the prince said.
“As the president of the Alliance of Democrats, I negotiated and talked with Samdech Hun Sen and he accepts the proposals for the talks,” he said. “This is not conditional, it is just proposals and we will also examine the CPP’s proposals.”
“Six months after the election, I think that if we have no will to resolve the problems for the nation, I would think that we have to turn to the sovereign people to let them make the decision,” he added. “But we can avoid that way. I propose to Samdech Hun Sen, that tomorrow, or not longer than next week, that the technical committee will meet with each other.”
The prince said the Alliance remains strong and his goal is to form a tripartite government with the CPP. A formal merger of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party was “inevitable,” he added.
Asked by reporters if the Alliance still was demanding that Hun Sen step down as prime minister, the prince said the most pressing issue was the national interest and not the fate of an individual.
“If Samdech Hun Sen agrees to demands for a good platform and common policy that are acceptable to us…the border issue, immigration issues…I would not be scared to vote for him, even though in the past I have learned bitter experiences,” the prince said.
Speaking later, Sam Rainsy said a second election would be a last resort, but was the only “logical and democratic resort.”
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen, said on Friday that he was optimistic of progress in the negotiations and that a “way out” could be found.
Regarding another election, Om Yentieng said it would be up to Prince Ranariddh to find the $20 million to fund such an event.
“If we have an election and then we do not respect the results, what is the point in having an election?” he said. “Better not to bother the people.”