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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ranariddh sees increasing tension

Ranariddh sees increasing tension

Funcinpec Party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh says tension will continue to

increase between the major political parties while there is still no agreement on

the composition of a coalition government and National Assembly.

On his arrival in Phnom Penh on May 4 after a month in France, the prince told reporters

that Funcinpec wished to resume talks with the Cambodian People's Party in order

to form a government by June.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 3 ordered CPP's political negotiators to cut off talks

with Funcinpec for the second time, after accusing pro-Funcinpec Ta Prohm Radio 90.5

FM of broadcasting programs critical of the CPP. The parties had previously agreed

to a truce over using radio stations to attack each other.

However by May 6 the two groups had resolved this disagreement.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) have proposed raising government employee

salaries from the current average of $30, to $100 a month, and decreasing the gasoline

price to a rate similar to neighboring countries.

A political observer told the Post on condition of anonymity that increasing salaries

was no major problem, but the CPP or a new coalition government must be committed

to eliminating corruption through good governance.

There are many estimates of the total cost of corruption.

A new report on obstacles to foreign investment estimates under-the-table payments

in the manufacturing and service sectors alone at $120 million a year.

Son Chhay, opposition lawmaker, says the government loses about $400 million a year

in overall corruption.

The Khmer Intelligence website, generally considered to be anti-CPP, is putting the

figure at about $1 billion per year, including plunder of natural resources, theft

of public assets, and embezzlement of public funds.

Asia Security Monitor of April 15 quotes a new World Bank Institute study which claims

that more than one trillion dollars is paid in bribes worldwide each year, in both

rich and developing countries [but not including embezzlement of public funds or

theft of public assets].

The WBI concludes that countries which address corruption and improve their rule

of law can at least quadruple their national income over an extended period.

Following the July 27 national elections, the CPP won 73 of the 123 seats in the

National Assembly, but fell short of the two-thirds minimum required by the Constitution

to create a one-party government. Funcinpec won 26 seats, while the Sam Rainsy Party

took 24 seats.

Hun Sen said on May 1 in Sihanoukville: "We need a new government, but it is

impossible. I don't understand [the mathematicians of Funcinpec] who make one plus

one equal two and a half."

The "two and a half" parties coalition formula [which would allow the SRP

to have some seats] was leaked to the media on March 15 and was claimed to have been

agreed between Hun Sen and Ranariddh.

But Hun Sen has consistently denied any such deal, and will not consider anything

but a two-party coalition.

This appears to be the major obstacle to formation of a new government.

Hun Sen appears to be less concerned about the effect of the stalemate on the economy

than about his waistline. He said on May 1: "My weight has increased six to

seven kilograms since the elections. I am eating better because the country's economic

situation is good compared to the unhealthy situation we had immediately after the

elections last July."

He warned that he would use the forces at his disposal to take strong measures to

deal with any act of terrorism against the government during the deadlock.

Late news

Talks to resume

The CPP and Funcinpec parties agreed yesterday to resume negotiations to form

a coalition government.

No date was set for the resumption, in a joint statement issued by the respective

negotiating team leaders, Say Chhum (CPP chief of Standing Committee) and Prince

Norodom Sirivudh (secretary general Funcinpec).



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