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
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
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
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
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
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,
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