Prince Ranariddh to Meet Chea Sim at Dinner

Prince Norodom Ranariddh and CPP President Chea Sim will attend a dinner hosted by UN representative Lakhan Mehrotra tonight, the first time the prince has met a senior CPP member since he returned from self-exile earlier this year.

Both parties insisted Thursday, however, that the party leaders were simply attending a dinner at Mehrotra’s invitation. Neither had the intention of discussing a future role for Prince Ranariddh’s Funcinpec in the next government, officials said.

“It’s a dinner, a pure and simple dinner,” said Mu Sochua, the prince’s cabinet chief. “There will not be any discussions.”

Funcinpec is insisting the party will not enter into any negotiations or discussions about a possible coalition until all vote recounts are complete and official final results are made available.

CPP officials confirmed independently that their party president was similarly not aiming to use the occasion to talk about a coalition or a role for the prince in the next government.

“This is not an appointment with the prince, they are both guests at the dinner,” Oum Sa­rith, an adviser to Chea Sim, said Thursday. “He [Chea Sim] does not have any plans to talk to him because it is not an appointment.”

Another adviser to Chea Sim also was eager to quell rumors about pos­sible discussions. “This is Meh­rotra’s initiative,” said Chhang Song.

The dinner, at the state Chamcar mon Palace in southern Phnom Penh, will be hosted by Lakhan Mehrotra, the UN’s special representative in Cambodia. He said Thursday the event was in honor of Chea Sim.

“I have invited Prince Rana­riddh and some leaders of Cam­bodia,” he said.. “It’s a medium-sized event. I hope to have my table full.”

Prince Ranariddh told a group of Japanese lawmakers that he would demand the post of Na­tional Assembly chairman for Funcinpec, Kyodo reported Wed­nesday. Chea Sim holds the post in the current parliament.

Later Thursday the prince downplayed speculation that even informal coalition discussions might be held at the dinner, Agence France-Press reported.

Despite winning elections in 1993, Funcinpec bartered away the Assembly chairmanship to Chea Sim and the CPP in a power sharing arrangement.



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