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Rainsy to launch party by year end

Rainsy to launch party by year end

F ORMER MP Sam Rainsy returned briefly to Cambodia on Sept 14 after six weeks in

the United States and Canada gathering support for a new political

party.

The former Finance Minister and expelled National Assembly member

said he expects to launch an opposition party by the end of this year, after the

upcoming party congresses scheduled by BLDP and Funcinpec.

He said he was

optimistic about the prospects of gaining new blocks of support from

disenfranchised members of Funcinpec - the party that threw him out in June -

and BLDP, which is badly split by a feud between its founders. BLDP's congress

is scheduled in October, and Funcinpec's in November.

"I have to wait for

these two things. Then we will see things clearer," Rainsy said.

He said

he doesn't want to rush. There is still more than two years to gear up for the

1998 elections.

In particular, the explosive feud within BLDP that has

already led to the suicide by one BLDP member last month, could splinter the

party and create support for an opposition party.

"If Son Sann is

defeated there would be many BLDP supporters who will be disappointed and who

will look for a way to continue their fight. At that time we can form a new

political party together," said Rainsy.

Son Soubert, a leader of the

anti-Ieng Mouly faction of BLDP, has already indicated he would talk to Rainsy

about a new party.

Similarly, Rainsy said he could pick up support from

unhappy members of Funcinpec if they find at the congress that "they cannot

influence the leadership of Funcinpec any longer."

Mouly, head of one of

the BLDP factions and Minister of Information, said he did not believe the BLDP

would lose members to a new Rainsy party.

"No, I don't think so," he

said, adding, "It's the right of everyone to choose a party."

First Prime

Minister Norodom Ranariddh, head of Funcinpec, was not available for comment, a

spokesman said.

While in the United States in August Rainsy met with

several U.S. senators and congressmen and their staff to discuss what he said

was a deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia.

He said he

delivered a message of concern about "the human rights situation, democratic

values, the situation with the MPs and the journalists who have been

arrested."

"I told them I hope I remain an isolated case, but I am afraid

I have set a precedent," he said.

He said he spent several days meeting

with Cambodian-Americans in California, Oregon, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

and raised money for an NGO that will work to alleviate the food shortage in

Cambodia. The aim of the organization is to dig wells and build canals to help

rice growing villages.

Rainsy is now in Australia, where he planned to

meet with opposition leaders and Senator Garath Evans, the Australian foreign

minister.

In October he will press ahead for a judgement in Bucharest,

the capital of Romania, where the Interparliamentary Union is scheduled to take

up his expulsion from the National Assembly. He said he expected the union to

determine, as its staff already has, that his expulsion in June was

illegal.

He said he didn't know if he would ever be reinstated to the

Cambodian assembly, but he would do every thing possible to carry out his fight

legally.

"Whether the Cambodian government will abide by the decision is

another story," he said.

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