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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy: kindling home fires without burning down the house

Rainsy: kindling home fires without burning down the house

Sam Rainsy spoke to Eric Pape and Kyra Dupont Dec 1. Excerpts: Phnom

Penh Post: One parliamentarian suggested that at least three former KNP members -

including Kong Mony who now claims to lead the party - have been given encouragement

to hinder you from running for office or to cut into your popularity.

Sam Rainsy: There are a lot of storms at the tops of political parties, like

storms over the ocean. But underneath the water, there is the mass of activists and

grassroots supporters who are faithful to the party's line, to the historic leaders

of their party. People are only manipulated at the top. The case of Funcinpec, which

has fallen far, is one example. Opposition parties are fractured. But if there is

an honest consultation among grassroots members, Prince Ranariddh will get at least

95 per cent support. With the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party it is the same, 95

per cent are faithful to the historic leader [Son Sann].

As for Kong Mony, I don't want to respond. If I am asked that question, I would ask

[CPP President] Chea Sim to respond to the same question. I would ask Chea Sim: "Do

you give credit to Nov Dina's CPP. Do you recognize Nov Dina's party [a supposed

rival CPP set up overseas]?... It is the same for Kong Mony. If Chea Sim answers

that he recognizes Nov Dina's faction, then, yes, it would be fair to recognize any

other faction divided from any other party...

Fortunately, we spoke of international aid before [returning to Cambodia] and Hun

Sen has become more flexible. Hun Sen has to respect the law because of the pressure

of the international community. They will have to respect the laws, the by-laws and

statutes of the parties. [What Kong Mony did] is forgery, according to the Untac-era


If this had happened before the coup d'état I am sure I would have lost. Now

the situation is far more favorable to me than it was before the coup because now

all the stage lights are pointed at me. If they make a mistake on the international

level it would have economic and financial consequences.

Are you worried about whether KNP will be recognized and permitted to run in elections?

If the KNP is not recognized from the beginning it would be too obvious. It would

show right at the start that no viable, credible, true opposition is possible. It

would show that elections will not be free and fair. If the main opposition party

is not recognized, there is no point in holding elections.

Do you think that Prince Ranariddh will be allowed to return to contest elections

next year?

Before responding I will do a political analysis on the return of Prince Ranariddh.

Funcinpec is in pieces. Only Ranariddh can reunite them. If Funcinpec becomes one

again, Hun Sen will not be happy. Hun Sen will be furious.

No one cares about Ung Huot, Loy Sim Chheang, Nady Tan, etcetera. The people don't

know them. You can't have Royalist party without any Royal blood in it. No Royal

blood is a joke. The people know. Independent of what I think of Ranariddh, he is

the only one who can reunite the party. Will Hun Sen accept his return? This is a

question of fairness. We return to the international community. Hun Sen is up to

his neck as a result of international pressure. Hun Sen is jumping out of the frying

pan into the fire.

Criticism of Prince Ranariddh is not new... What lessons do you think Prince Ranariddh

learned in exile?

Ranariddh has realized that he made many errors and the limits of his leadership

skills are obvious to the people. This is certain. If he didn't have such obvious

limits, he would not be where he is today. Ranariddh ceded everything to Hun Sen.

He was in Hun Sen's hand. A lot of [Funcinpec] grassroots activists enrolled in the

KNP because they saw the limits of Ranariddh. The image that the people have is that

Rainsy was his right arm and Sirivudh his left arm. He was the head. The CPP cut

off the right arm first, then the left one, and finally the head.

Is there any talk of a deal to bring back Prince Norodom Sirivudh [exiled in 1995

for allegedly plotting to kill Hun Sen]?

Maybe it is wishful thinking, but I think we are heading toward a general amnesty

for all of the convicted politicians, not just for Funcinpec, but also for those

in the CPP. I think that this is an essential condition to have democratic, free

and correct elections. Prince Norodom Chakrapong should be amnestied, Sin Song too.

It is necessary for the elections.

Can you envisage forming a governing coalition with the CPP after elections?

That will depend on the result of the election and on the opinion of the CPP.

I am partisan to a national union, but not at any price. There are good and bad elements

in the CPP like in any other party. The ideal would be to join all the good elements

of the different parties to make a national movement to renovate Cambodia. There

are good and bad elements in every party, in the CPP, in the KNP. We must bring together

the best of all parties.

Have you met with CPP members since your return?

I have spoken with people in the CPP.

High-ranking CPP officials?

I can't say [but] within the party, people are upset. They said the situation

was fine until July.

You said at a Nov 28 press conference that you would ask the Constitutional Council

to look into your 1995 ejection from the National Assembly. As it now appears possible

that the Council may convene as early as this month, have you broached the subject

with [National Assembly president and CPP president] Chea Sim or his representatives

since your return?

I talked to the people who came to talk in the name of the CPP. They said that

if I continued to use a moderate tone, I would have things without making war.

I think I will obtain freedom for [imprisoned KNP security chief] Srun Vong Vannak,

I will obtain a radio station if I don't speak too badly of the CPP, if I only say

things that are constructive for Cambodia. I could also get my seat back in the National

Assembly if I don't criticize too much. There, I will push harder. Already when I

was ousted, Ranariddh offered me to make a deal: I could stay if I stopped criticizing.

But I refused to work in a rubber-stamp parliament. I will not work for a rubber-stamp

parliament today. But this will be something like a gentlemen's agreement... they

didn't have to say that [I must behave], I already understood that. I decided not

to fan the flames and moderated my tone because to organize elections we need a calm


Who do you receive funding from?

I only receive funding from the Cambodian Diaspora. They are relatively rich.

Not only money, but also human resources. They donate their skills for free. When

I go abroad, I am invited by the people of the Diaspora... and I come back with [donations].

This is the difference between the CPP and the KNP: the KNP receives money from its

activists and the CPP pays its activists. The KNP Diaspora must believe in me because

I am nothing. I have no power. First they must believe in me and second they also

believe in Cambodia.

Can you talk about who funds the resistance?

I give money to the resistance. Since the coup d'état the KNP has spent

far more money than it used to. In Bangkok the greatest amount of funds goes to the

resistance, but it is only support for food, clothes... I was [near the border] on

November 18 and I saw the resistance, but I provided only humanitarian aid. I did

it because without the resistance Hun Sen would say that Cambodia is normal. There

is an internal and external pressure that way and that is why Hun Sen became more

flexible. If the democratic process is working, everyone in the resistance must come

back... Already I have launched an appeal for a cease-fire. By helping the resistance

I also have a means of talking to the resistance. But I will do the same for Hun

Sen's soldiers. I will go see them to give them kramas... but not weapons.

Even if the resistance military leaders such as Nhek Bun Chhay, Khan Savoeun

and Serey Kosal are allowed to return, it appears unlikely that Khmer Rouge leaders

in Anlong Veng such as Ta Mok and Khieu Samphan are likely to follow. Is there any

way to resolve the historic battle between the CPP and Anlong Veng?

In my opinion, there will be no more Anlong Veng in the present sense... after

real democratic elections.

I will demand that the Khmer Rouge be evaluated by the international community. It

cannot be said that Ieng Sary is more responsible than Ta Mok. We have not measured

the role of Chea Sim, who was chief commander of a Khmer Rouge regiment ... It is

very difficult to tell who is morally and historically more responsible than anyone

else. I think a court should judge them all. But while we are waiting, we should

accept all. I am sure they are guilty... but I have no moral basis upon which to

say Ieng Sary is worse than Khieu Samphan. In Phnom Malai and Pailin, where I have

visited, it is much better developed than Phnom Penh. Anlong Veng is better developed

than Kampong Speu [province]. Independently of their past, many Khmer Rouge are working

better for the people than their counterparts in Phnom Penh.

Given the threats on your life, did you write a will before returning?

I haven't had the time.

Do you have life insurance?

I am afraid the premiums would be too high.



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