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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen confident about party's vote on PM post

Hun Sen confident about party's vote on PM post

One day before the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) held its meeting in Phnom

Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen was upbeat about the party retaining him as its prime

ministerial candidate for the coming election.

In a speech that was broadcast on radio and television, Hun Sen denied speculation

that party members would vote to reshuffle the leadership, remove officials, or ditch

its coalition agreement with Funcinpec.

He said some diplomats and observers had expressed concerns that major changes could

take place at the assembly.

"Nothing substantial will be changed because [we] have done things right. Please

don't worry," Hun Sen said on April 23. "The football team, if it wins

[the election] will continue to play with Chea Sim as trainer, Heng Samrin as goalkeeper

and Hun Sen as the striker."

Some 700 top officials from across the country will meet at the extraordinary session

on April 24 and 25 at the Apsara TV station. They will discuss the party's work over

the past five years and set a new strategy to take the party through the next five

years.

There was much speculation in the press in recent months that Hun Sen might lose

his position as prime minister. Repeated delays of the meeting added fuel to such

stories.

However a source on the Central Committee told the Post on April 24 that the 23-strong

Permanent Committee had voted unanimously prior to the meeting to appoint Hun Sen

as the party's prime ministerial candidate. The Post was unable to confirm that by

press time.

Other participants for the two-day meeting include the senior hierarchy, members

of the standing committee, senators, legislators, provincial governors and officials,

and commune chiefs.

Hun Sen said reforms would continue in the armed forces, civil administration, the

judiciary, finance and the economy. He stressed that the coalition with the royalists

would be maintained after the election - provided the CPP received enough votes -

because it helped to strengthen the nation's peace and security.

CPP chairman Chea Sim used his opening speech at the congress on April 24 to outline

the topics of debate. Members would evaluate the CPP's current situation and determine

its objectives over the next five years; determine the political platform to restore

and develop Cambodia; and decide on the work required ahead of July's general election.

Chea Sim added that the commune elections held last year showed the Cambodian people

need the CPP to play its role at both the national level and at the grassroots.

A senior party member, who did not want to be named, said the CPP had tried over

the past five years to feed the people, and also improve agriculture, education,

health care, the rule of law, and reform the armed forces.

He said the party was still working on the same issues that it had promised to tackle

in its 1998 political platform, adding that its new mandate was to increase equality

and speed development to improve living conditions. Boosting agricultural productivity

would be the priority to attain that goal.

Another CPP official expected that the party's work in improving the prospects of

the poor would reap votes. While the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec had

been watching their senior members defect this way and that, he said, the CPP had

used its time to work with the grassroots, which would benefit the ruling party at

the polls.

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