Prince Returns to Pile of Work

After being abroad for nearly a month, National Assembly Presi-dent Prince Norodom Ranariddh is set to return today to Phnom Penh, where he faces pressing issues in both the Assembly and his own party, Assembly members and diplomats said.

Foremost among his concerns, they say, is convening the Assem-bly so a Constitutional amendment allowing the creation of the Senate can be debated and adopted before a critical donor meeting Feb 25-26 in Tokyo.

“Members of both parties agree that finalizing the Senate would be beneficial before the [Consultative Group] meeting,” a senior Asian diplomat said.

The Senate proposal was agreed to in November by CPP and Funcinpec as part of a deal creating the coalition government. But the proposal has bogged down with disagreements between parliamentarians about the role and structure the Senate should have.

The Senate proposal also presents a serious political dilemma for the prince, according to opposition party lawmaker Son Chhay.

“If we approve the Senate, we will be blamed for not raising the salaries of teachers and creating a whole new body [of officials] needing salaries. But if the prince doesn’t agree, then he will be blamed for not keeping the [Nov 12] agreement with the CPP,” Son Chhay said.

Additionally, Prince Ranariddh will need to organize his party after his long absence, possibly including its internal structure, the diplomats said.

The prince has officially been on a visit to France to meet with parliamentary counterparts and to teach at the University of Aix-en-Provence. He is scheduled to return this afternoon.

Former resistance commander General Nhiek Bun Chhay, who was given an amnesty last year after he was convicted of plotting to overthrow the government, may return with the prince, according to an Asian diplomat.

, and, according to Prince Ranariddh adviser Serey Kosal, to teach students at his alma mater, the University of Aix-en-Provence in France.



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