IN an apparent major shift in Cambodia's balance of power, Hun Sen is facing greater
pressure from Funcinpec and from within his own Cambodia People's Party (CPP).
Funcinpec appears to have garnered greater political muscle by engineering control
of the Khmer Rouge breakaway in the northwest.
Hun Sen is apparently prepared - for the first time since co-Prime Minister Prince
Norodom Ranariddh hit out at CPP's dominance of the government coalition in March
- to give concessions to Funcinpec.
The Second Prime Minister has tentatively agreed to let exiled Prince Norodom Sirivudh
return to Cambodia, and offered a fresh proposal - albeit unacceptable to Funcinpec
- to share district-level power with his coalition partner.
In what some Funcinpec and CPP officials agree was a deliberate ploy to gain a stronger
bargaining position with Hun Sen, Funcinpec - led by military chief Nhek Bun Chhay
- is masterminding negotiations with the renegade Khmer Rouge.
CPP officials and some observers see a virtual revival of the "non-communist
resistance" - comprising Funcinpec, the former KPNLF and the KR under the umbrella
of the King - which fought Hun Sen's Vietnam-backed government from Cambodia's northwestern
border with Thailand in the 1980s.
CPP officials, closely considering the prospect that the KR split is a "Trojan
horse", claim that Funcinpec is being dangerously naive and "deluding themselves"
in trusting the breakaway rebels.
Pundits, especially within CPP, are worried that both Hun Sen and Funcinpec are playing
a "dangerous game."
But Funcinpec's policy of "stroking the tiger", as one source put it, looks
set to pay dividends, in the short-term at least.
In an Aug 17 meeting with his co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Hun Sen
proffered his apologies for earlier trying to claim the kudos for the KR split.
Sources say he also agreed to consider accepting a Royal pardon for Sirivudh, and
offered to discuss awarding Funcinpec some much-wanted district officials' positions.
However, he is said to have offered no more than 20 percent of Cambodia's 174 districts
for Funcinpec appointees, which Ranariddh - who has demanded a 50/50 deal with CPP
- is almost certain to reject.
But Hun Sen's willingess to even discuss the matter, given an earlier public declaration
by CPP that it would not consider any further power-sharing with Funcinpec, was significant.
At the same time, Hun Sen was facing rumblings of discontent within the CPP at his
handling of the KR splinter group and his public acquiescence to the splitters.
Hun Sen, along with Ranariddh, has publicly endorsed the prospect of amnesty for
breakaway leader Ieng Sary - which appears almost certain to be granted by King Norodom
Sihanouk, though it is unclear whether the matter will go to the National Assembly
for a vote.
Hun Sen also entertained the prospect of permitting the KR dissidents to form a political
party, saying in an Aug 31 speech in Battambang that they could do so providing that
they first handed over their territory to government administration and obeyed the
laws of the land.
Earlier, Ieng Sary announced Aug 28 the formation of a political "movement"
- the Democratic National United Movement (DNUM) - which he said would operate under
"the framework of the monarchy" to promote democracy and peace.
A mooted meeting between Hun Sen and Ieng Sary, along with Ranariddh, apparently
did not eventuate this week. But the Second Prime Minister met KR representatives
including Sary's son Ieng Vudh in Banteay Meanchey Sept 2, describing the meeting
not as negotiations but as a "family gathering."
A day earlier, disgruntled CPP elements moved to give their verdict on what it would
take for them to accept Sary and his comrades.
In a Sept 1 newspaper column, Chang Song, a senior adviser to CPP party president
Chea Sim, proposed a series of conditions to be put on negotiations with Sary's faction.
The conditions - widely intepreted as being unacceptable to the breakaway KR - included
that Sary make his forces surrender all their guns and that he transfer millions
of dollars from rebel bank accounts to government coffers.
The conditions, according to several CPP sources, represent the views of Chea Sim
and his followers, and their unhappiness at Hun Sen's handling of the KR issue.
"Suddenly Hun Sen gave everything away," said one disenchanted party official,
adding: "He will have to convince his own party that the Khmer Rouge is acceptable."