Top F’pec, Opposition Officials Leave Capital

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh flew Tues­day evening to Bang­kok, where he plans to meet with foreign diplomats and ask for their condemnation of the July 27 election results and support for Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Democrats.

Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay, who accompanied Prince Ranariddh to the airport, said Wednesday that the prince is appealing to Bangkok diplomats because Phnom Penh’s foreign diplomatic corps was not neutral in assessing the elections.

“The foreign ambassadors here are biased toward the ruling party. I don’t know whether they are afraid for their personal security or what. We believe the foreign am­bas­sadors in Thailand are more independent,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said. “The prince will inform [Bang­kok diplomats] about the election irregularities and urge them to make reports to their countries.”

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, who arrived in Bangkok Monday to participate in a regional conference on political reform, will be approaching Bangkok’s diplomats separately but toward the same end, Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said Wednesday.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who also left for Bangkok Wednesday to attend the conference, said Tuesday that Sam Rain­sy will be giving a news conference outside of the regional conference, which is jointly hosted by the US-based National Demo­cratic Institute and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats.

Sam Rainsy is being accompanied by his wife, opposition

lawmaker Tioulong Saumura.

Funcinpec spokesman Ok Socheat said Wednesday that his party’s secretary-general, Prince Norodom Sirivudh, is also in Bangkok. No Funcinpec officials gave a reason for Prince Siri­vudh’s trip.

Funcinpec Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua was also scheduled to participate in the Bangkok conference on political reform, Dominic Cardy of NDI said Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy, Tioulong Saumura, Son Chhay, Prince Ranariddh, Prince Sirivudh and Mu Sochua are all expected to return over the weekend, according to officials in their respective parties.

Funcinpec officials Wednes­day said that Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara curently is in France at present. Nhiek Bun Chhay said she is vacationing. Ok Socheat said she is trying to drum up support within the European Union for the Alliance of Demo­crats.

Sam Rainsy Party steering committee member Senator Ou Bun Long conceded Wednesday that the absence of so many high-ranking officials from the new alliance might appear “suspicious,” but “it’s a coincidence,” he said.

Appeals for foreign endorsement and support by embattled Cambodian leaders are not unprecedented. Prince Ranariddh himself left Cambodia to court foreign countries during his 1997 exile that followed that year’s factional fighting.

Kao Kim Hourn, director of the Cambodian Institute for Coop­er­a­tion and Peace, said Wednesday he was not sure “repeating the strategy” of the 1980s was a good idea and described the Alliance of Democrats as an “alliance on the basis of political convenience.”

“How can that be?” he asked. “There were a number of missions, including the [European Un­ion], which have come here and declared the elections free and fair.”

Refuting alarmist cries, Kao Kim Hourn, who has served as an adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “Cambodia doesn’t have a political crisis at this mo­ment. We still are in the electoral process.”

Another national political ob­serv­er said, “They still dream the international community is paying attention to Cambodia…. They must stop thinking this way.”

With Prince Ranariddh out of the country now and planning a trip to the US and Europe for the beginning of September, one CPP official said Wednesday that his party was worried the prince’s ab­sence could hinder the convention of the next National Assem­bly. As Assembly president, the prince is required to be present to begin its next session, the official said.

Ou Bun Long said Tuesday that Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy are scheduled to travel to the US and Europe from Sept 4 to Sept 18. They will visit Los Angeles, Wash­ing­ton, Berlin, Paris and finally the EU’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, he said.

But CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith denied that Prince Rana­riddh’s absence could block the for­mation of a new government. He said King Norodom Si­ha­nouk would convene the next Assem­bly.

Sam Rainsy and Prince Rana­riddh are leaving the country so that their supporters could disrupt civil order, probably through protests, without their leaders being held accountable, Khieu Kanharith said.

“The most important thing [for them] is to cause disorder in hopes that the government will react violently and the image of the government will be tarnished,” he said.

Also Wednesday, officials from both Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party said they are circulating a petition among their parliamentarians to have the Assem­bly review the National Election Committee’s performance.

Nhiek Bun Chhay said that 30 of the two parties’ 58 lawmakers have already signed the petition.

“The National Assembly appointed the NEC so we want Prince Norodom Ranariddh to summon the NEC president to be questioned about their misconduct and its neutrality,” he said.

Son Chhay said that bringing the NEC before parliament is the logical procedure. But the As­sem­bly is unlikely to meet, so the oversight committee for the ministries of Interior and Defense should hold the review, he said.

That committee is chaired by Funcinpec lawmaker Dien Del.

NEC spokesman Leng Sochea on Wednesday called the Alli­ance’s new initiative a “tantrum” resulting from defeat.

“The National Assembly ap­pointed the NEC members. If those parliamentarians think that those [NEC] officials aren’t independent and transparent, why did they vote for them?” he asked.


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