Prince Ranariddh Returns to Register Party

Deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh re­turned to Phnom Penh apparently for good Monday, vowing to enter his party for elections be­fore the registration deadline.

“I’m here to check on progress for the elections,” the prince told reporters as he greeted Funcin­pec officials who came to Poch­en­tong Airport to welcome him back from Bangkok. “I have to go and register of course.”

The registration deadline for political parties wishing to compete in the polls is Thursday.

The eligibility of the prince’s party, Funcinpec, is still uncertain, due to the presence in the northwest of resistance troops fighting in the prince’s name.

Government officials have as­serted this could rule out Fun­cinpec under an electoral law forbidding parties to control private armies or autonomous zones.

Despite this controversy, the prince said he wanted to cooperate with the government in order to lay the groundwork for the forthcoming elections.

“It is the responsibility of the two main political parties,” the prince said.

But he reiterated his re­fu­sal to drop the title of first prime minister—an action Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has insisted on if the two rivals are to meet.

“I have the mandate from the people of Cambodia. Only the people of Cambodia can take it back from me,” he said. “I hope that His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen changes his mind.”

Senior Hun Sen aide Prak Sok­honn, however, on Monday dismissed the suggestion that his boss might change his stance and meet the prince. “If the prince still considers himself first prime minister, there will be three prime ministers and that is the problem,” Prak Sok­honn said.

The prince, who visited Cam­bodia twice last month to lay the groundwork for a permanent re­turn, took up residence Mon­day in a house close to the US Em­bassy, according to his aides.

Lu Laysreng, the prince’s personal representative, said Mon­day the location of the residence, close to the embassy of one of the prince’s most powerful international advocates, was not linked to any security fears recently ex­pressed by Funcinpec officials.

But an aide to the prince told Agence France-Presse on Mon­day that the prince’s movements  would be “severely restricted” until international election ob­servers, organized by the UN, were in place in every province and rural center.

“We need the international ob­servers—as many as possible—in the villages to protect the prince,” the aide said. “There are still not enough security arrangements being made.”

The prince’s first official en­gagement is today, when he meets with 360 party representatives from all over the country attending a four-day training session on election observation, said sen­ior aide May Sam Oeun.

 

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