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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - King offers olive branch to KR

King offers olive branch to KR

POLITICAL jockeying and inter-party rivalries appear to be growing as

speculation mounts over the King's role in peace efforts.

Breaking his

public silence on political issues since his Jan 4 return to Cambodia, King

Norodom Sihanouk has called for a Khmer Rouge political party to be


Meanwhile, rumor and speculation are rife over possible attempts

from some political quarters to give the King greater power to pursue his aim of

national reconciliation.

Funcinpec MPs have been instructed not to gather

in groups of more than six at one time in an apparent bid to prevent any


There are renewed suggestions of a new Sam Rainsy-Prince

Norodom Sirivudh political party being in the works, while Rainsy himself says

he believes the King has some kind of "scheme" to seek greater political


In a Jan 22 speech in Siem Reap, the King appealed directly to KR

nominal leader Khieu Samphan to form his own political party to vie in the 1988


Explicitly rejected was the possibility of KR chiefs such as

Pol Pot or Ta Mok ever returning to Phnom Penh, as the King said they "should be


But he "begged" other senior KR figures - and their rank and

file - to lay down their weapons and rejoin society.

He said they should

pursue their aims politically, not militarily, and suggested they could start

their own newspaper.

The King said there was no more he could do to bring

about national reconciliation. Any move by him to have the KR included in the

current ruling government would be unconstitutional, he said, as he had no power

to do so.

"Not only the KR [but] even the King, even Sihanouk who is King

of the people, cannot violate the constitution," he said.

He promised

amnesty to KR - despite the Jan 15 end to the government's official six-month

amnesty - who surrendered but stressed they all had to abide by the

constitution. The government, meanwhile, has confirmed it is considering

extending the amnesty.

Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said that, in line

with the King's view, a proposal for an extension had gone to the Cabinet. It

was likely to go before the National Assembly for a vote.

The question of

extending the amnesty is one of several issues - including proposals to soften

the draft press law - where appeals by the King have been supported by senior

government officials.

Sam Rainsy, the sacked finance minister considered

to be close to the King, told the Post he believed the King had a proposal to

seek greater power.

Asked what it was, he referred to the plan the King

outlined to the Post in an interview last June.

"Even if the King doesn't

say it any longer...he probably has some similar scheme even more relevant to

the present circumstances," Rainsy said.

In the June interview, King

Sihanouk unveiled a detailed plan to form a national reconciliation government -

but only with the agreement of MPs, and particularly those of the Cambodian

People's Party - which would include senior KR.

The interview prompted

CPP leader Hun Sen to write an open letter rejecting any such proposal to the

King, who responded by saying he would "no longer intervene in the affairs of

the Royal Government".

Rainsy said he would not speculate on what kind of

power the King might now seek, other than he would not resort to illegal means,

but believed he should be helped.

"It's the will of the people. If we

have to choose between Hun Sen and the King, we will not hesitate one second.

That is why Hun Sen is getting nervous."

Another MP told the Post that

the Phnom Penh political rumor mill had been in full cry over recent


"There have been a lot of reports - that there is a coup coming

tonight or tomorrow night, or that you will be killed if you plan to give power

to the King, that sort of thing."

The BLDP party's president, Son Sann,

made an "urgent appeal" on Dec 27 for King Sihanouk to be given "all powers

necessary" to achieve national reconciliation.

The statement clearly

angered many, including Co-Prime Ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen,

who have said any such move would be unconstitutional.

Hun Sen, in a Dec

31 speech to Kompong Som naval officers, appealed to the military to support the

government to defend the constitution. "We should prepare ourselves to condemn

anyone who tries to destroy the constitution," he said. "The Royal Armed Forces

must prevent this occurrence."

Meanwhile, the Voice of Khmer Youth

newspaper - widely considered to have close links with Rainsy

- recently reported that the possibility of Rainsy and close ally Prince

Norodom Sirivudh forming a new political party had been discussed with the King.

A source told the Post the matter had been broached with the King, but

not directly by either Rainsy or Sirivudh.

Political observers suggest a

new political party is likely to be in the pipeline, but not until much closer

to the next elections, due to be held in 1998. They say that Rainsy and Sirivudh

can achieve more by maintaining and developing their links with other dissenters

within Funcinpec.

Rainsy, asked to comment, denied any imminent prospect

of forming a new party. He said he and Prince Sirivudh could work within


He said Prince Sirivudh had agreed to remain as

Secretary-General of Funcinpec after Prince Ranariddh "begged" him not to




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