A team of Funcinpec fighters led by former RCAF Military Region 4 commander Khann Savoeun arrived in Phnom Penh on Wednesday for talks on reintegrating their forces into the government army.
No date has been set for the talks, according to RCAF officials and aides to deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
General Khann Savoeun made no statement on his arrival at Pochentong Airport, where he was met by a Funcinpec delegation including Prince Sisowath Sirirath.
The five-member delegation met with Prince Ranariddh immediately after arrival.
The talks are intended to meet the last requirement for a Japanese-brokered peace plan to allow Prince Ranariddh to participate in upcoming national elections. It is uncertain, however, if the talks will lead to an agreement, government officials said this week.
The reintegration of Prince Ranariddh’s forces is crucial to the elections scheduled for July 26 because article 6 of the law on political parties forbids parties from having their own armed forces.
Some believe that the article could be used to deny Funcinpec’s participation in the election.
“Some people inside the party continue to work to prevent Prince Ranariddh from competing,” one CPP insider said Wednesday. “This does not seem to be changing. The most likely tool is article 6 of the political party law.”
While the law forbids parties from having private armies, the penalties are vague and do not specify disqualification from elections. Plus, Funcinpec has already been approved as an official party by the Ministry of Interior, which used the political parties law in its evaluation.
Registration for the elections with the National Election Committee is ongoing. The party registration forms were due last week and approval is due this week.
Unlike resistance generals Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal, Khann Savoeun has not been charged with any crime and so is free to return for this week’s talks.
In early July, however, Khann Savoeun irked Siem Reap First Deputy Governor Nou Som by fleeing his base to join resistance forces at O’Smach. Nou Som, the most influential CPP member in the province, said that Khann Savoeun had assured him he would maintain a neutral stance regarding the factional fighting that erupted in Phnom Penh on July 5, but broke his word, according to CPP members.
Two of the other three points of the Japanese peace formula—a royal amnesty for the prince after his conviction on charges of weapons smuggling and conspiracy with the Khmer Rouge, and a cease-fire in fighting—were fulfilled earlier this year.
Resistance forces also must cut ties with the Khmer Rouge, according to the Japanese plan. Nhiek Bun Chhay and Prince Ranariddh have said recently a partnership never existed, but Phnom Penh has not publicly accepted this.
Reintegration of the former RCAF forces, which broke away to fight against the government after Prince Ranariddh was ousted last year, may be complicated by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen’s opposition to an amnesty for Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal, who were convicted along with Prince Ranariddh on conspiracy charges.
Prince Ranariddh has previously linked the generals’ amnesty to reintegration. However, one of the prince’s aides, Kong Vibol, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Wednesday the issue could be dealt with later.