Prince’s Support Team Here

An advance team of supporters of deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh arriv­ed in Phnom Penh on Wednes­day with a mandate from the prince to prepare for his sche­duled return next week.

The four-person team, led by Education Minister Toh Lah, is here until Friday to discuss security arrangements for the prince’s return, announc­ed for Monday.

“We are going to discuss with the authorities of Phnom Penh, the people who are responsible for the security and personal safety of the [prince],” Toh Lah said told reporters at Pochentong Airport after the team’s arrival.

Toh Lah noted the government guaranteed in an October letter to the UN the safe return of self-exiles.

He said he did not foresee a delay of the prince’s return on account of security concerns, citing a statement made recently in Bangkok by Defense co-Minister Tea Banh that the government welcomed the prince’s return.

“According to the plan, the prince will return on the 30th,” Toh Lah said.

“We are very pleas­ed with the positive developments of the events of last week. We strongly believe these events are contributing to the national re­con­ciliation policy, to peace, stability and will allow us to participate in the forthcoming elections,” he said.

Other members of the advance team included Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvudh, who is also Council of Ministers co-minister; UN Ambassador Prince Sisowath Sirirath; and Phnom Penh Dep­u­ty Governor Kao Meng Hieng.

Prince Ranariddh said in Bang­kok on Wednesday that he felt confident about his return plans after receiving government assurances about security.

“I think there is no reason to delay my return,” he said.

The prince’s return will mark the end of nearly nine months of self-exile.

Toh Lah said he did not yet know what festivities will be staged for the prince’s arrival.

Government plans to provide security for the arrival, however, may deter anyone planning to greet the prince with a party at Pochentong.

“We will not allow the unofficial well-wishers to enter the airport. If some of the group do something bad, the government will be responsible and it would not be good for the elections,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu So­pheak warned Wednesday.

“The Anlong Veng Khmer Rouge will take the opportunity of the prince’s return to do something to threaten his security, as a political game, because the government would be responsible.”

National Police Deputy Direct­or King Samnang on Wednesday headed a meeting of a security com­­mission set up to ensure the safe return of opposition politicians.

The Funcinpec appointee said a plan was drawn up for police operations on the day of the re­turn, but declined to give details.

One dignitary who will not be present among the anticipated crowds at the airport is Hun Sen, according to adviser Prak Sok­honn.

“Did you see Hun Sen when Son Sann returned? Did you see Hun Sen when Sam Rainsy re­turned? So don’t expect to see Hun Sen there when Prince Ra­nariddh returns,” he said.



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