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Rival KNP congress planned

I N defiance of his recent ouster as Vice-President of the opposition Khmer Nation

Party (KNP), Nguon Soeur says he intends to hold his own party congress on Mar 17.

Soeur maintains that under his stewardship, KNP will finally be granted the official

legal status which has eluded President Sam Rainsy since the party was established

last November.

"At the March 17 Congress of the Khmer Nation Party, we will change certain

articles in the party statutes, relating to its logo and founding date," Soeur

said this week. "We will change the foundation date of KNP from Nov 9 to Mar

17. This will be the day that KNP will be reborn."

He added that 2500 people would be invited to attend the congress, to be held at

Bopha Klain Rumsev dancing hall in Tuol Kork district. The meeting would be open

to members of other parties, as well as NGOs and diplomats.

"I am convinced that, at the Mar 17 congress, the government will recognize

KNP," Soeur said, "Sam Rainsy is welcome to attend the congress, but if

he does not come, we will have to see who will be the next president of the Khmer

Nation Party."

Rainsy and his supporters, meanwhile, have rallied to discredit Soeur's claims that

he is still a KNP official and that his expulsion was improper.

Rainsy has filed a lawsuit against Soeur alleging that he was guilty of "forgery"

for continuing to claim to represent KNP and for using the party's stationary.

Rainsy - in his quest to secure governmental recognition of the banned party - was

scheduled to lead a Mar 7 KNP delegation to the Ministry of Interior, in spite of

reports that top officials would probably ignore him.

In a Mar 1 letter to You Hockry and Sar Kheng, the Co-Ministers of Interior, Rainsy

criticized them for repeatedly postponing their Feb 16 invitation to hold talks on

the legality of KNP.

Sam Rainsy warned the ministers that - whether they replied to his demands or not

- he would lead a KNP delegation to the Ministry anyway.

"I suggest that our rendez-vous effectively takes place definitely on Thursday,

7 March 1996 at 8:00 am. This time around, I firmly hope that the Ministry of Interior

will no longer make excuses for postponing [the meeting], because such a decision

could raise annoying questions from national and international public opinion."

Soeur said he would not be attending any meeting between the government and Sam Rainsy

and the "young insolents" in KNP.

"I am trying to find a reasonable legal solution to the status of KNP as an

opposition party," Soeur said.

Ministry of Interior chief of cabinet Klok Buddhi, recently asked to comment on Rainsy's

assertions that the Constitution guarantees his right to form KNP, said: "We

do not plan to ban Sam Rainsy's group from the political scene in Cambodia.

"If we allow him to create a political party, it means we have to allow for

the creation of one hundred more political parties. This does not serve the interests

of public order and security. When people comply with the new electoral law, they

will be recognized as official political parties.

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