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Ranariddh Kicks off Campaign

TAKEO CITY - A crowd of around 4,000 enthusiastic supporters and other interested

individuals greeted Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of FUNCINPEC as he kicked

off the party's electoral campaign on Apr. 15 in this provincial capital 60 kms south

of Phnom Penh.

The prince descended by helicopter into the center of a secondary school courtyard

amidst heavy security and was welcomed by unified chants of "Chaiyo (Long Live)

FUNC-INPEC, Chaiyo FUNCINPEC." He then proceeded to deliver a 35 minute addressto

those present.

In his speech Ranariddh underscored the fact that FUNC-INPEC was founded by his father,

Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and that the party had remained steadfastly "Sihanoukist."

"Today I feel like I am born again after more than 20 years when the country

fell into a holocaust. FUNCINPEC was established by Sihanouk and I am his son. I

and my father are standing here with you," Ranariddh said.

Prince Ranariddh predicted that if FUNCINPEC wins the election, Prince Sihanouk would

come back to lead the country.

"I am very proud because you are strong enough to support FUNCINPEC," Ranariddh

said. "If FUNCINPEC wins it means that the whole nation wins and Samdech Euv

will come back to rule the country as before."

Many party members present carried banners and posters depicting pictures of Prince

Sihanouk and his son, Ranariddh.

Ranariddh defended FUNCINPEC against accusations that have been made by the State

of Cambodia (SOC) that the party is aligned with the Khmer Rouge.

"I am not afraid of any accusation against myself as well as against FUNCINPEC

that FUNCINPEC is Khmer Rouge," Ranariddh said. "We hate the Khmer Rouge

and I would like to tell you that we belong to the party established by Samdech Euv.

If they accuse us of being Khmer Rouge it means that they accuse Samdech Euv of being

Khmer Rouge."

"We are all Buddhist devotees," the Prince explained. "And we also

respect other religions like Islam and Christianity. And this differs from Communism

which bans all kinds of religions. So it is not true when they accuse us of being

Khmer Rouge, that we are being dominated by the Khmer Rouge from top to bottom."

"And I myself have never been a Khmer Rouge," the Prince added.

The format of the event was also designed to bring back memories of Sihanouk's years

in power before he was overthrown by Lon Nol in l970.

Party officials noted that Rana-riddh's arrival by helicopter was reminiscent of

trips by Sihanouk in the 60s to rural areas and that the 30-member marching band

on hand for the occasion was a similar holdover from days gone by.

FUNCINPEC officials complained that SOC had prevented people from attending the rally.

"We rented many cars and trucks and last night SOC police cut the battery cables

and stole keys," alleged Sam Rainsy. "There are lots of ways they can put

pressure on us. Shopkeepers were pressured not to rent us cables for our microphones."

Rainsy said that if it weren't for these tactics more than 10,000 people would have

shown up for the event.

"The people came at great risk," Rainsy added."You can see it on their

faces. They have nothing to win and a lot to lose."

The complaints were relayed to UNTAC electoral officials in Takeo although it is

unclear what if any action was taken.

FUNCINPEC is the country's major opposition party in the run up to elections scheduled

for the end of May. The party says that it has more than 1,060 offices throughout

the country.

"This was a test case," said Ek Sereywath, Ranariddh's assistant. "Takeo

hasn't had many problems so far. I'm happy that the event went relatively well."

Ranariddh Kicks off Campaign

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