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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP draws line in the sand

CPP draws line in the sand

THE Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is threatening to refuse any more power-sharing

bids by Funcinpec, after Prince Norodom Ranariddh demanded greater equality between

the government partners.

CPP leader Hun Sen and other party officials say they have met their legal obligations

to Funcinpec and will not give it anything else.

"The Cambodian People's Party is obliged to base its position on principle and

law, by not discussing any more the issue of power-sharing in the Royal Government

including the district level," a Mar 26 statement from the CPP central committee

said.

Funcinpec, meanwhile, has written to CPP proposing a joint committee to settle differences

over the parties' division of district positions throughout Cambodia.

Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen, said CPP would honor any agreements already made

but the party had "clearly stated" its position on the holding of new discussions.

By April 2, however, Ranariddh was publicly confident that the situation was "calming

down" and two parties' top leaders would be able to sit down and resolve the

problem.

The unprecedented fracture in the coalition government - to the extent there was

talk about an early election - was triggered by Ranariddh's public complaints that

Funcinpec had been denied real power.

Describing himself and his party as a "puppet", Ranariddh said Funcinpec

would rather withdraw from the government than continue to "betray" itself

and the Khmer people.

His comments came in a speech at a Funcinpec national congress, the first since 1992,

in Phnom Penh Mar 21. Hun Sen attended the congress, which featured banners such

as "Long live the Funcinpec-CPP alliance", as a special guest. After he

left, and journalists were asked to leave, Ranariddh delivered a forthright indictment

of the political climate.

Declaring himself "absolutely not happy" after two years as First Prime

Minister, he said: "Being First puppet prime minister, puppet vice-prime minister,

puppet ministers, puppet governors and deputy governors and soon-to-be puppet chiefs

of districts...being a puppet is not so good."

Ranariddh, in comments later played on Funcinpec television and radio, complained

that Funcinpec representatives in government ministries had been denied appropriate

roles.

He complained of delays in Funcinpec being allowed to appoint some district-level

officials. Hun Sen, he said, had told him district power-sharing was unjust and contrary

to national reconciliation.

But, noting that Funcinpec had won more votes than CPP at the 1993 national election,

Ranariddh said the biggest injustice had been to his party.

The coalition government was a "slogan", he said, or an "empty bucket"

that was beaten in the name of the democracy.

"Our Funcinpec also beats it and says that this bucket has water...I think after

this congress we should stop beating that empty bucket any more."

Unless there was an agreement to share power with "balance, justice and equality",

Funcinpec should consider other options such as withdrawing from the government and

becoming an opposition party in the National Assembly.

Ranariddh went further, suggesting that if CPP did not take note of his comments,

Funcinpec could choose not to wait until 1998 for the next election. It could vote

to dissolve the National Assembly and have an election "before the end of 1996."

"I deeply regret not being able to grab for Funcinpec and the entire Khmer people

the brightest and greatest victory corresponding to their wish...I think that we

cannot continue the betrayal of the determination the people already made in 1993

and neither can we continue it until 1998."

Hun Sen reacted coolly to Ranariddh's comments, urging CPP members to remain calm

in the face of "some regrettable events".

In two speeches, on Mar 23 and 25, Hun Sen referred to himself as being in a "crab-hole"

in the ground. From where he was, he said, the loudest voices he could hear were

those of poor farmers, students and workers "asking for peace, national reconciliation

and development."

Saying that people were in need of roads, bridges, wells, canals, schools and hospitals,

he urged CPP to continue working for those objectives and not to engage in political

quarreling.

Hun Sen, in apparent reference to Ranariddh's televised comments, said some CPP members

had smashed their televisions in anger.

"Don't do that," he advised. "Why beat the cart when you are angry

with the oxen? If you are angry...dig canals for the people."

Later on Mar 25, Hun Sen said an apology was in order from Funcinpec for its television

broadcast of Ranariddh's statements.

Suggestions of internal differences between CPP over the issue were raised the same

day when Funcinpec secretary-general Loy Sim Chheang met with CPP president Chea

Sim.

Hun Sen's office issued a terse statement denying reported comments by Ranariddh

that Chea Sim had agreed to joint talks to settle the district power deal.

On the same day - in what was widely seen as a highly unusual move - Chea Sim was

escorted to his Phnom Penh residence by King Norodom Sihanouk after an audience at

the Royal Palace.

The next day, the King issued a communiqué expressing concern about the "unexpected

crisis" in the coalition and suggesting that "roundtable" negotiations

organized by him could be necessary if it were not resolved.

The CPP central committee meanwhile issued an unsigned statement rejecting any further

discussions over power-sharing.

The statement said the Paris Peace Agreement required the sharing of power only in

senior political positions, which had been done.

CPP, "in the spirit of compromise", had agreed to integrate more than 11,000

members of Funcinpec into government and provincial positions.

CPP had previously also been prepared to permit Funcinpec to appoint some district

officials, but Funcinpec had not yet submitted its list of candidates, the statement

said.

It accused Funcinpec of "using this matter as a pretext to withdraw from the

Royal Government, creating political instability and confusing public opinion."

It added: "Any political party or political force which intends to act in detriment

to the nation and people must bear full responsibility for the consequences which

arise from their actions."

The statement also rejected any early election, saying that would be unconstitutional,

a view later echoed by Hun Sen.

Hun Sen referred to the Constitution's provisions that the National Assembly could

only be dissolved before the end of its five-year term if the government was "deposed"

twice within one year.

Political observers spoken to by the Post considered it unlikely that either party

would want to see an early election. Theoretically, however, Funcinpec could withdraw

from the government and prevent CPP from forming a new one, possibly forcing an election

A Royal government has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly,

which would be impossible without at least some Funcinpec members' votes.

Several observers believed Ranariddh was trying to force concessions out of CPP,

in order to help Funcinpec decide how to campaign in the 1998 election, while shoring

up a degree of support among the opposition vote.

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