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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ranariddh: let me campaign, or fight me in the jungle

Ranariddh: let me campaign, or fight me in the jungle

Ranariddh: let me campaign, or fight me in the jungle

Post: You have called for a unilateral ceasefire and promised to disengage from military

cooperation with the Khmer Rouge. There is doubt in Phnom Penh that a clean break

with the Khmer Rouge is possible, since you were in alliance with them in the 1980s

and again in the late 1990s. How can the international community - and Hun Sen -

believe the Khmer Rouge has been politically and militarily isolated?

Ranariddh: "I have long supported proposals to end the conflict, but

I doubt Hun Sen's will. I have favored the cessation of hostilities, but Hun Sen

has rejected such proposals. The Thai and the Japanese have presented plans and positive

steps but Hun Sen has rejected them. I support these peace plans not out of weakness

but out of a willingness to put an end to the sufferings of the people of the Kingdom

of Cambodia. In fact I am contacting Nhek Bun Chhay today to implement the ceasefire

procedures. We do reserve the right to retaliate, however, if we're attacked. As

to accusations that I formerly cooperated with the Khmer Rouge, you must remember

that it was Hun Sen who was Khmer Rouge. When I was summoned by my father in 1983

to lead the resistance, the alliance included the West, Asean, China, who forced

us to cooperate with the Khmer Rouge. When I recently worked out the compromise position

with the Japanese, it was I who insisted that all cooperation with the Khmer Rouge

- military and political - must cease. I was insistent that the Khmer Rouge have

no political role. If people in Phnom Penh don't believe me, then why did I propose

a bilateral commission of Hun Sen's and my side to monitor the truth that there is

no cooperation on the battlefield? And I add an invitation to any country to send

their military attaches to attach themselves to this commission - the French, the

Americans, the Japanese, the Indonesians, even the Vietnamese - to verify the end

of cooperation." (He slaps the couch for emphasis). "I told the Japanese

right here to convey these proposals to Hun Sen. Until now: no response. I say this

to the Phnom Penh Post: Any military attache may attach himself to the bilateral

commission to verify implementation. But I believe the Hun Sen side will refuse,

since cooperation with the Khmer Rouge is just a pretext. Even before the coup, on

June 25, a CPP delegation - the Minister of Interior, Minister of Information, the

Chief of General Staff - visited Taing Krasaing in search of the Khmer Rouge. They

found none. This is just a pretext. They have to attack me. 'Stop cooperating!' Hun

Sen says, but this is just for a Western audience. When they hear the words 'Khmer

Rouge', Westerners have an emotional reaction. But it is Hun Sen who has a clear

alliance with Khmer Rouge warlords who are looting and killing. Ieng Sary, the killer

of millions, is now an upright citizen of Cambodia. This close associate of Pol Pot

has joined Hun Sen. And they attack us! The democratic states should not be pointing

at me but at Hun Sen. The French, who are close to Hun Sen, should provide helicopters

to the bipartisan committee so they can make inspection trips in the field."

Post: You, your chief bodyguard and Nhek Bun Chhay face charges of importing weapons

on March 4. Will Funcinpec representatives mount a defense or refuse to recognize

the proceedings?

Ranariddh: "We do not recognize the trial, we reject it, we ignore it.

First, the court is obedient to the CPP and Hun Sen in particular. Second, we did

not commit a crime. General Nhek Bun Chhay, as Deputy Chief of Staff, asked permission

to import arms from the State Secretary of Defense. To order weapons is also my responsibility

as Prime Minister and co-Commander-in-Chief of the army. When a shipment of arms

arrived at Kampong Som port, they were transported to a Cambodian air force base

and confiscated by Chow Perun, representative of the Ministry of Defense, and distributed

to military units, including mine! Suppose in the United States, you are arrested

in your car with a container of drugs? If judged guilty, your car may be confiscated

and sold on behalf of the government. But in this case, the weapons arrived on January

15 [sic] and were distributed to military units on June 18."

Post: What about the fact that these weapons were labeled "spare parts"?

Ranariddh: "This is common practice. Weapons are labeled 'spare parts'

so as to avoid trouble in stopovers from port to port. But if the weapons were illegal,

why were they not kept in evidence as you do in a drug case? And the military court

violates legal procedure as well. At a military court, I can only be judged by an

officer of higher rank. As co-Commander-in-Chief, I am a four star general. But I

am to be judged by a one star general."

Post: There is a counter argument that accuses the CPP of importing weapons from

Vietnam. Do you have proof?

Ranariddh: "They've imported tons. I feel sorry that some country has

accepted to sell munitions to Hun Sen to kill Cambodians. This only prolongs the

destruction and the killing. Hun Sen has to be condemned. There is no comparison

with me: 3 tons of light weapons. Hun Sen's shipments were 30 containers. Heavy shells

too."

Post: "Colluding with the Khmer Rouge" is a charge that remains in limbo.

March 20 is the stated date for your return to Cambodia. Will you return on that

date if the military court proceedings are not complete or if there are still charges

pending against you?

Ranariddh: "I stated at the FCCT that if I want to stand for election,

I have to be back by March 20. I can't fix an exact date because I have to work according

to the Japanese plan: trial and an amnesty by the King, clearing the way for me to

go back and stand for election. I can't fix a date because Hun Sen does not respond

to the Japanese proposals. The trial is set for March 4, with another trial on relations

with the Khmer Rouge set for 15 days afterward. The question is how will I be able

to go back before the 20th. I call upon ASEAN to ask Hun Sen. There may be no time.

The amnesty has to be prepared for the King by the Ministry of Justice, which is

CPP. I expect Hun Sen to create delays and difficulties."

Post: You're saying that you may not even become a candidate?

Ranariddh: "Absolutely. This would be one element of the elections that

would not be fair and free: If I'm not allowed back in time; if they don't intend

to let me stand as a candidate. My message to Japan, the United States, ASEAN, is

to make Hun Sen implement the four pillars of the Japanese proposal. If I go back

before the amnesty, there is no reason: I'll be arrested and ineligible to run while

I'm on trial. If this is the case, Funcinpec will not take part in the elections.

And Sam Rainsy's KNP and Son Soubert's BLDP and others will not take part. We will

move in concert, the Union of Cambodian Democrats. The world cannot view any such

election as fair, free and credible. Hun Sen bears the responsibility for fair elections.

If this is not the case, I will not stay in Bangkok. I will return to Cambodia, not

to Phnom Penh, but to join the resistance. Still, it is not too late. The international

community must put pressure on Hun Sen."

Post: Will your chief bodyguard and Nhek Bun Chhay be granted amnesty along with

you?

Ranariddh: "Since the charges are politically motivated, an amnesty

for me would also apply to the others. I see no difficulties."

Post: Where will Nhek Bun Chhay spend the election campaign? How will you protect

yourself during the campaign? Are Funcipec security forces strong enough in the capital

and countryside to provide adequate protection?

Ranariddh: "I have great concerns about security. One, there's my personal

security and, two, for the people who support me. I don't believe the leadership

is in danger. But there are means to threaten, if not kill, party supporters in the

countryside. My security and the security of party members is one question. The other

is freedom of speech, of movement, access to radio and TV. The owner of one TV station

is under pressure to sell to a business supporter of Hun Sen. I expect many obstacles

before and during the election."

Post: How have you supported yourself and your party over the last eight months?

What have NGOs like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican

Institute done for you? Who has been providing arms to your soldiers?

Ranariddh: "We've been having financial difficulties. Resistance groups

in the US support us with donations as they have in the past. Not from France. Former

investors in Cambodia support us in a confidential manner. We are not rich. NGOs

support party workers in a small way with food allowances, accommodation and pocket

money. But these funds have been cut since December."

Post: Concerning the failure of your three-and-a-half year coalition government,

what are your regrets? What would you have done differently?

Ranariddh: "My regret was the coalition itself. After spending $2 billion

on what was supposed to be a big UN success, the world community forced me into a

coalition once Hun Sen made the use of force with the threat of succession of three

provinces. For the sake of the country and under pressure from King Sihanouk, I agreed

to accept an anti-democratic decision. My father and I reacted to the threat of a

civil war. The country had suffered too much. The Paris Accords called for demobilization

of forces. The Khmer Rouge didn't do it, and neither did Hun Sen. This was the main

failure of UNTAC's Akashi. And this paved the way for the failure of democracy. Hun

Sen had his hand on power and did not intend to share it. If after the current election,

the CPP refuses to hand over power, then it's back to the resistance. Back in 1993,

the CPP actually had more supplies than today. The United States, Australia, Japan

now accept the fact that the winner will have to rule the country according to the

will of the people. The EU has invested $11 million, the Japanese $8 million, with

more to come from the United Nations. Hun Sen needs this election to establish his

political legitimacy."

Post: What chance do you really have in this election?

Ranariddh: "What chance did I have in 1993? Do some research and

see if you can find one newspaper, one TV that said we would win. All, all, all -

including my father - said we would lose. And this time we will win exactly the same

again. In 1993, Hun Sen actually had more power then. His party had been in control

for 14 years. They controlled everything: the military 100 percent, the police 100

percent. UNTAC did not protect us that much: 47 campaign workers were killed. This

time around we will have observers from the UN, the EU, NGOs. Secondly, we have a

National Election Commission, not independent, but we have representatives from the

EU and the US. They'll be trying to organize elections as free and fair as possible.

The problem, you might ask, is what will happen in the post election period. If he

loses, Hun Sen cannot complain that the election was not fair. The world community

will say: 'Hun Sen, you cannot complain. We only helped and organized, but we did

not supervise.' For him, the situation is worse than 1993. A delegation from one

country said to me that if this current election is not legitimate, Hun Sen can never

go to Tokyo, to Canberra, to Washington, to Berlin. He will be back in the situation

of 1989. There will be no recognition of his government and his UN seat will remain

vacant. We would have the backing of the US. It took three and a half years for Aristide

to return to Haiti, but the Americans are stubborn when it comes to democracy. Hun

Sen will be left isolated and poor, with no help from the World Bank, the IMF, or

the ABD. And there will be a resistance movement too."

Post: Why would people vote for you rather than Hun Sen?

Ranariddh: "For 14 years, Cambodians had no liberty. For three and a

half under me, they did. This was cut off after the coup. Before me, there was war.

While I was in Cambodia, no war. And now there's war again. I eliminated bribery

in education. Before at the Royal School of Administration - training civil servants

- students had to pay a bribe to get in and a bribe to pass exams: $10,000 for the

first, $20,000 for the second. Who can afford that? I eliminated bribery and the

students support me. When I was in government, growth was 7.5%, down to 6.5% due

to drought. Growth is zero now. Inflation was 121% when I took over. It fell to 43%

and then to 3.5-5.5%. The riel was at 2500-2700 to the dollar. Now it's 4000. There's

no new investment, no tourism - except daytrips from Bangkok to Siem Riep - no aid.

People see the difference.

Post: On Feb 20, Sam Rainsy said he will institute a civil suit against Hun Sen

on behalf of a widow of a colonel who was killed during the coup. Do you support

this?

Ranariddh: "He's right. I support him and he consulted with me beforehand.

Hun Sen was supposed to investigate the murders. We know who the killer is and he's

being protected. It's Rainsy's right as a lawyer to represent the victim's family.

There is no comparison between Hun Sen and me. You only have to look at his history:

his role in four provinces as Khmer Rouge, his K-5 plan against the resistance, the

killing of 15 university demonstrators in December 1991."

Post: What is your vision for the future of Cambodia? What is the worst thing

that could happen? And what's the best case scenario?

Ranariddh: "Things can't get worse than they are now in Cambodia. They

can only get better, if people have the courage again and the determination to put

an end to Hun Sen for good. After the 1998 election, we can finally have a free,

democratic, independent Cambodia. I regret now not paying more attention to democracy.

For one thing, the National Assembly shouldn't be obedient to party politics. Disciplined,

yes. But a multi-party system is best. Secondly, the media should be more independent

and a legal opposition encouraged. Third, we must get rid of our big army. What do

we need it for, to compete with Thailand and Vietnam? The World Bank has a fund to

help with demobilization."

Post: What if you lose the poll?

Ranariddh: "Two possibilities. If Hun Sen allows a chance for legal opposition,

we will take it. If not, we will go into the jungle for resistance."

Post: Would you form an alliance with Ta Mok?

Ranariddh: "No! No! No! We have our own military strength. But it would

be much better to work with the CPP. Not all of them are bad or supported Hun Sen's

coup. He bears full responsibility for the coup and if the CPP loses, my hope is

that the CPP will make Hun Sen disappear. I worked for three and a half years with

CPP ministers and many of them were better than my own, more effective. They were

communists but they worked hard and were dedicated to the country. If our alliance

of parties wins more than two-third of the seats, the CPP can be the legal opposition.

If we don't get two-thirds, we will cooperate with the CPP, not with Hun Sen. If

the CPP takes two-thirds of the seats, we will be the opposition. A fourth option

is a coalition government. I will never serve under Hun Sen but my party members

will be free to do so. The fifth option, if we are not allowed to be the opposition,

is resistance."

Post: How is the mechanism arranged now for the Royal pardon?

Ranarridh: "According to Article 27 of the Constitution, the King can

grant amnesty on his own. According to the Japanese agreement, I will not ask for

amnesty by myself but a family member may do so. My father is my family, so in effect

the declaration of amnesty can be unilateral. As Deng Xiaopeng said: ' It doesn't

matter what color a cat is as long as he catches the rat.' As regards Hun Sen, he

must have felt very strong after the coup, expecting to be recognized by every country

in the world in 48 hours. Instead, his UN seat is vacant, the World Bank is closed

to him, the IMF, even Japanese aid. The end result is that he is not as strong as

before."

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