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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stalemate continues: focus on Ranariddh lawsuit

Stalemate continues: focus on Ranariddh lawsuit

THE Alliance of Democrats has demanded the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)

drop defamation charges against Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh before

meeting to form a new government.

The Alliance, composed of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), has canceled

a series of meetings in November over the dispute. The political standoff is now

in its fourth month.

The first official meeting agreed upon by all three parties was scheduled for November

20. It was scratched after Funcinpec leaders announced they would boycott the meeting.

Two previous meetings, scheduled for November 18 and 19, were requested by the CPP,

but the Alliance refused to attend, SRP legislators said.

Kol Pheng, a Funcinpec official and head of the task force to convene the National

Assembly, said his party refused to meet the CPP until charges against its president

were dropped.

The charges, filed on November 4, allege that Ranariddh falsely accused Prime Minister

Hun Sen of involvement in the killing of Chuor Chetharith, a pro-Funcinpec reporter

shot outside Ta Prohm radio on October 18.

Pheng said there were also additional matters holding up progress.

"Another issue is the technical problems between Funcinpec and SRP that have

not been resolved," he said. He would not elaborate citing a confidential internal

deal between Funcinpec and SRP.

Western and Asian diplomats have warned that if the impasse continues, international

aid to Cambodia could be jeopardized, said a political observer who asked not to

be named. Such assistance accounts for about half of Cambodia's budget.

"Several ambassadors in Phnom Penh have told me that they are concerned aid

to Cambodia will be cut if their [legislative] assemblies debate on a budget while

a Cambodian government is unformed," said the observer.

However, members of the Alliance have expressed solidarity and shown no signs of

backing down until the CPP accedes to their demands.

Son Chhay, a member of SRP, said his party would continue to support Funcinpec. He

said if Hun Sen dropped the charges, a meeting could take place immediately.

Khieu Kanharith, spokesman for the CPP, said his party would agree to the request

once Funcinpec stopped implicating Hun Sen in political killings.

The three parties publicly agreed to guidelines outlined by King Norodom Sihanouk

on November 5. That agreement keeps Prince Ranariddh as president of the National

Assembly if Funcinpec will support Hun Sen's candidacy as Prime Minister before a

vote in National Assembly. Rainsy would also become vice-president of the National

Assembly.

"We agreed with Funcinpec to have Ranariddh as president of National Assembly,

but Funcinpec didn't confirm conditions that [the CPP] demanded which looked bad

for us," said Kanharith.

The Alliance also welcomed a request by civil society organizations to take part

in the political meetings as "witnesses" of any agreement by the parties.

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