Ranariddh Leaves Just as Meetings Start

As CPP and Funcinpec officials wrapped up a four-hour meeting Sunday aimed at forming a new government, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh left Cambodia for the second time in two months, this time heading to the Philippines, royalist officials said.

Two senior Funcinpec officials, who spoke on condition of ano­nym­i­ty, said Prince Ranariddh had left the country, but did not know when he would return.

Prince Ranariddh will meet parliamentary officials while he is in the Philippines, one official said.

“We are not sure. Maybe two or three days. It’s up to the negotiations,” the official said.

Prince Ranariddh did not attend Sunday’s negotiations led by Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh and his CPP counterpart Say Chhum.

Though officials from both parties gave a positive outlook after the meeting, they declined to give details about their talks.

Hun Sen adviser Prak Sokhonn told reporters the two parties had agreed to hold further discussions on three subjects—the national platform of the new

government, a cooperative agreement between Funcinpec and the CPP, and the structure of the new National Assembly and government.

A statement released after the talks confirmed as much, but it did not indicate that the two sides made any agreement other than to meet again.

Prak Sokhonn said the parties exchanged proposals for a national platform during their session, but declined to elaborate.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanha­rith said Sunday’s talks had largely been paved by the meeting on Saturday between Prince Sirivudh and Say Chhum.

At that meeting, he said, “they agreed on how to proceed with the negotiations.” He declined to give further details.

The two parties agreed to meet again on Thursday, officials said, signaling that a new government may still be a long way away.

“There will be many, many more sessions,” Kassie Neou said Sunday.

Though no firm agreements were made, he labeled the talks “a big achievement.”

Addressing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations, he said: “Why should we tell the public before we have a chance to look at the other party’s proposals?”

Kassie Neou declined to an­swer questions about the prince’s whereabouts.

Prince Ranariddh has made frequent trips abroad during the eight-month deadlock. He most recently returned to Phnom Penh on March 6 after a trip to Europe.

His nearly three-month ab­sence, from early November until January, prompted his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, to dub him “the Invisible Man.”

Opposition Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang, whose party was represented by Funcinpec at the meeting, said only that it was “a successful meeting.”

“The Sam Rainsy Party supports the outcome of the meeting because it goes along with the Alliance of Democrats policy,” he said.

Meanwhile, separate statements on Saturday, King Noro­dom Sihanouk repeated he would go to North Korea on April 6 and defended himself against criticism from “one newspaper of a particular party” and expressed his frustration over the current political wrangling.

“The political deadlock…is not caused by me,” he said.

He added: “The reason Funcin­pec won in 1993 is because the people liked the Sangkum Reastr Niyum and myself.

“Some parties have claimed they can solve the problem

before the King comes back, but now they said that if the King doesn’t come back, the political problem cannot be solved and this is Sihanouk’s mistake,” he said.

“Currently, I cannot bear to live with some political parties and politicians.”

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