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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen takes hard line at party summit

Hun Sen takes hard line at party summit

HUN SEN cemented his hold on the Cambodian People's Party, vowed not to make concessions

to Funcinpec - and said he was prepared to exile another Royal family member if necessary

- at CPP meetings last month.

In a private June 29 speech to 900 CPP supporters, the Second Prime Minister warned

the Royal family against challenging him, called Funcinpec a "tricky bunch",

and questioned why co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh had not carried out

his threat to withdraw from the government.

Saying that CPP was a super-power at building schools, Hun Sen continued: "But

as for fighting, we're not so much [a super-power], but if you want to try, come

on!

"One Royal has been got already, two Royals in fact - '94 one, '95 one,"

he said, referring to the exiled Princes Norodom Chakrapong and Sirivudh.

"If another one is needed in '96, that can be done too. Oh, you lot, what Princes

you are!

"Commoners and Royals, they have equal rights. The King is the only one...who

can't be touched but can't be touched only so long as the King abides by the Constitution

too.

"Let's be clear about that. If you don't abide by the Constitution, you're in

for it right now."

In the apparently impromptu speech, lasting more than an hour, Hun Sen rounded on

the Funcinpec Minister of Transport and Public Works Ing Kieth, also co-Deputy Prime

Minister.

Speaking to an audience of mainly women, all ministry staff or their relatives, he

alleged unlawfulness by Kieth in ministry staff appointments.

Describing Kieth as the worst public works minister in 17 years, Hun Sen said he

was prepared to "clash horns" with Ranariddh if the First Prime Minister

defended Kieth's actions.

If Ranariddh was unhappy, he said, he should carry out his March threat to withdraw

from the government if CPP did not agree to district power-sharing.

Urging public works staff transferred from the ministry to go back and retake their

jobs, he said: "If Ing Kieth is not happy, he can withdraw and if Ranariddh

is not happy, you can just withdraw as you promised.

"I'll say it now, if you don't walk out, you're chhkae sot [a real dog],"

Hun Sen said to applause.

Elsewhere in his speech, he supported a single passport-only rule for 1998 election

candidates, and vowed United Nations staff and other foreigners would not be able

to touch ballot boxes.

He continued, without specifying who he was referring to: "But if you create

any crisis, time is on our side because I'm just 44 years-old and will not die that

soon.

"Whereas some are old and have prepared their passports already. Some have already

gone, some are preparing their passports. As a human being, who can live for two

hundred years?

"Whoever wants to broadcast this, feel free, there's nothing left [to hide.]

I've survived one attempt to assassinate me, they wanted to kill me, I don't know

what offense can be more serious than them trying to kill me."

The speech was closed to journalists except from CPP's Apsara television station,

but tape-recordings of it have circulated around Phnom Penh.

A senior Funcinpec official, who would not be named, said Hun Sen had effectively

urged civil servants to denounce Funcinpec's leaders and threatened to force them

out of the government.

Also, he said, "the statement is a direct insult and threat to the Monarch and

the Royal Family."

He said Hun Sen was attempting to divide politicians with dual nationality from other

Cambodians, while also rejecting foreign monitoring of election ballot boxes.

Overall, he said, Hun Sen displayed CPP's desire to continue "communist theories"

in Cambodia.

Another top Funcinpec official, noting Hun Sen's criticism of at least four other

Funcinpec ministers or governors in recent times, said: "All the time we accept

it. We feel if we react, we will go against the unity of the government.

"We can go so far, but no more... We have two Prime Ministers, not one. To accuse

people without the ability for them to respond, to make statements in front of 900

people - this is not the democratic way."

Hun Sen's speech followed the 21st Plenum of the CPP Central Committee, held June

25-26, at which he also took a tough stance against Funcinpec.

At one stage, he told CPP provincial governors not to attend speeches by Ranariddh

around Cambodia. He alleged that Fun-cinpec had a similar policy toward his appearances

as Second Prime Minister.

Hun Sen gave a spirited performance at the closed-doors plenum, and faced no internal

dissent, sources say.

CPP president Chea Sim, perceived by some observers to be in a rival bloc to Hun

Sen, said in impromptu remarks to the plenum that he had always acted for the benefit

of the party, not himself personally.

In his subsequent closing address, Chea Sim spoke of the need for vigilance against

"lawful forces", as well as the Khmer Rouge, who tried to play tricks against

CPP.

The only official comment after the plenum was a three-page statement which said

CPP was determined to protect the Constitution and the current National Assembly

and government until the next election. It also supported the one-nationality principle

for political leaders.

The statement said the party would continue cooperation with other parties, particularly

Func-inpec, "on the basis" of a March 26 memorandum issued by CPP - which

rejected any further power-sharing negotiations.

The plenum statement also pledged to protect civil servants, in line with the law,

from unfair demotion or dismissal.

It was on this subject that Hun Sen spoke the most during his later June 29 speech.

He alleged Funcinpec had abused him and his party by trying to take the jobs of CPP

state employees.

Ing Keith had illegally replaced CPP-appointed ministry staff, he said. Keith also

regularly appointed fellow Funcinpec minister You Hockry to replace him at public

works when he went abroad, Hun Sen complained.

Kieth was reluctant to comment to the Post but said that he hoped any problems could

be resolved through discussion.

Funcinpec was committed to working hand in hand with others for the sake of Cambodia,

he said. Many Cambodians, such as himself, who used to live in France, had returned

to their homeland to pass on their knowledge.

"I think that the population has to judge me, my work and whether I am a man

to be accused of treason. I am not.

"If it happens that I have made a mistake, I am ready to apologize. But please,

that does not justify allegations of treason or to be told to go far away."

Keith said that as minister he acted within the spirit of the Constitution and current

civil service regulations.

Some ministry employees had left for more beneficial state jobs elsewhere, he said,

while some departments had been transferred to other ministries or agencies.

About You Hockry replacing him when he was overseas, he said this was standard Funcinpec

procedure for several years.

He was aware of a recent circular from Hun Sen opposing this practice.

Citing new roads built around Cambodia, and other major infrastructure projects in

the pipeline, Keith said the ministry had contributed much to Cambodia.

"This seat belongs to no-one," he said, pointing to his chair.

"This is not Ing Kieth alone, this is the entire population of public works.

I tell my staff we have to work together, to preserve the sense of a family in our

work. Otherwise, we can do nothing."

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