LONG BEACH - Exiled Cambodian Prince Norodom Sirivudh said here before his return
home to Cambodia on Jan 21 that he will not take part in Cambodia's new coalition
government or engage in politics.
The former Foreign Minister and Secretary General of Fun-cinpec said he would tend
his land, become a monk and perform humanitarian service in the name of the King
when he returns home after nearly three years abroad.
"I have no plans to go to Phnom Penh for... any position. I would like to serve
the King, personally. I would like to see my role as humanitarian activity and service
to the King and the monarchy," he told several dozen members of his National
Movement for the Democracy of Cambodia.
"I have no intention of going into the government. I have a pagoda and some
rice fields," he said, noting that he will pay homage to all those who have
paved the way for his return and the Cambodian people by living the ascetic life
of a monk.
"Some people are worried that I will have a lot of bodyguards and live behind
high walls... [But] I would like to be a monk to pay my gratitude."
After being accused of plotting to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1995, Sirivudh's
parliamentary immunity was lifted, tanks surrounded his home and he was threatened
with imprisonment at T3 prison.
Sihanouk intervened and brokered Sirivudh's departure into exile. The prince was
later convicted in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison in what human rights
workers said was a "show trial".
Sirivudh said that blanket pardons agreed to by the CPP for him and other Funcinpec
officials were simply part of an overall political resolution and not something that
would aggravate the political climate.
He denied that his plan to shun politics had to do with his rushed departure from
Cambodia in 1995, saying that diplomats "misunderstood" when they said
he had promised to steer clear of politics for 10 years.
Sirivudh said he had passed the political baton to others, including his sister,
Princess Noro-dom Vacheara, an elected MP for Siem Reap. "Princess Norodom Vacheara
has a lot of work to do as a Member of Parliament, Prince Ranariddh is speaker of
the parliament, and Prince Sirivudh is a humanitarian. I plan to be neutral."
"I would like to go to Beijing to pay respect to my (half) brother first,"
he said before his return home. "Today the situation has changed. I am getting
a Royal pardon and it is thanks to your pressure and to the King, my brother."
Sirivudh thanked Ranariddh for setting the stage for the pardon even though Ranariddh
accepted Sirivudh's ouster from the political scene in 1995 to rid himself of a popular
political rival within Fun-cinpec.
Sirivudh said he believed Ranariddh would be a good National Assembly president despite
their own past disagreements.
"I have a lot respect for Prince Ranariddh.
"I am still a Funcinpec member. I think he would be an excellent president of
parliament. Prince Ranariddh has learned from his good and bad experiences thus far.
"You accumulate knowledge,
you learn. I hope he can be part of the process to resolve things."
Sirivudh also noted the acquiescence of Prime Minister Hun Sen in allowing his return.
"He seems to be moving toward national reconciliation."
"Getting rid of Hun Sen will not resolve anything," he said, implying that
other top figures may ultimately turn out to be worse.
He suggested that the new coalition could crumble if both parties did not work toward
concrete and agreed upon goals, and cited the unworkable 1993 coalition as evidence.
"If we got married [then] it was not for water and fresh air, it was for stability.
It didn't work. There was no joint plan.
"We must be patient. Wait and see and not make a quick judgement.
"We must go carefully, wisely, but firmly toward the [election] year 2003.
"I hope we will be successful. Not me, but our friends," he said.