Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The argument on behalf of the winners

The argument on behalf of the winners

The argument on behalf of the winners

Hor Nam Hong who, by holding the title of

Minister of State, is Prime Minister-elect Hun Sen's most senior-ranking

adviser talked to Christine Chaumeau last week about the CPP's take

on Cambodia today.





'We have already been patient... [But] this situation is really regrettable... Funcinpec should also be careful, it should know how far it can go in its maneuvers. '

Post: Do you

feel that today the opposition has pushed the CPP `s back to the wall?


Hor Nam Hong:

We accepted the presence of the UN and the presence of international observers,

not to mention the 20,000 national observers [and those from] political

parties. The opposition should know we have done everything to satisfy them.

Do you remember before the election the opposition declared that they would

not join in the polls if conditions were not sufficient? They even fixed

a date beyond which they would not participate. What I do not understand

is that [they are] asking for democracy, but [they do] not respect the basic

rule of democracy. [They] want a state of law but [they] do not respect

the laws and regulations of the country. I do not accuse but I am obliged

to notice it. There was a deadline for appealing to the Constitutional Council,

[they] needed to accept that... It is going too far, it is going too far.

What are they looking for? A confrontation at all costs? The annulment of

the election? What?

Post: Do you think we have reached that point?

Hor Nam Hong: We are still optimists.

Post: What is the solution to this deadlock?

Hor Nam Hong: We need to seriously negotiate to

have first, the National Assembly steering committee and then to talk about

the government. The CPP has said it is ready to discuss, to sit down at

a table, to talk to each other. It is the beginning of a solution. We can

understand each other. The CPP said it was ready for a bipartite or tripartite

coalition government. According to me, to be a true democracy there should

be a majority and an opposition. The people should not think that they need

to be in the government to help the country. If nationalists, patriots,

are in opposition, that can help the government to move forward in the right

direction. That is why if Mr Sam Rainsy agrees to play the game of democracy,

he can play a very important role in the opposition. We have to see further

than the present.

Post: Are you still in favor of his participation in the government or do

you think he would be better in opposition?

Hor Nam Hong: As an opposition member at the National

Assembly, hewould by better. That said, I do not oppose Sam Rainsy's participation

in the government. But I think that for democracy, for the good process

of democracy, and in the interest of Cambodia, there must be a government

and an opposition.

Post: Have you been surprised by the strong stance taken by Funcinpec, a

party that was not known to be so disciplined, and which in the past has

had members getting close to the CPP?

Hor Nam Hong: First, I do not know whether it is

adopting a harder position or if this is just a bargaining strategy. And

I do not know if this way is making for unanimity within Funcinpec. I would

like Funcinpec to have a fixed line of conduct, and act according to that

line. Do they want to play the role of the opposition? Then they just have

to allow the formation of the Assembly steering committee, so the assembly

can meet and amend the Constitution for the CPP to be able to form the government.

[Then] they can play the opposition. This is what I have just said for Sam

Rainsy. Or do they want to participate in the government on the basis of

a common political platform as is done in other democratic countries? Either

into the government with a political platform in common with the CPP which

is as good for the country or else play the role of opposition and accept

the Constitutional amendment to allow the CPP to govern alone. Go back to

the basic rules of democracy. When you call yourself a democrat, you cannot

act another way.

Post: How do you explain this new strong stance of Funcinpec? What is their


Hor Nam Hong: You should ask them where they receive

support. Funcinpec should not play cat and mouse. I know that sometimes

one maneuvers for position, that is fine. But if one does that, [at some

point] we have to get serious. You cannot always play cat and mouse. If

they really are political leaders, they need to think about the interests

and the image of the country.

Post: Is the patience of the CPP drying up or is there still some reserve?

Hor Nam Hong: We are still very patient. We are

still patient people. We are waiting for another working session and for

the King to be able to convene another meeting with the main leaders of

the three parties to find a way out. We have already been really patient

and we are still ready to be. [But] this situation is really regrettable.

The reason for their failure: if they had stayed united, they would have

won the majority. Whose fault is that? Remember before the election [the

attitude of Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy]. It is their fault they have not been

able to stay united. In democracy, one should not try to win all the time.

Post: Do you think that the King can still play a role?

Hor Nam Hong: Despite his return to Phnom Penh

the working group didnot achieve any progress. As long as there is not an

Assembly steering committee, there is not an Assembly president, and if

the King goes abroad, there is no head of State. That is why the King agrees

to stay. The King still can play a role due to his wisdom, his neutrality,

to the respect that everyone owes him as a great patriot. When you are in

the presence of the King, everyone is very sensible [but] as soon as you

leave the King... See the meeting of [Sept] 22nd in Siem Reap, there was

an agreement to meet, to form the steering committee of the Assembly and

discuss other problems within the Assembly. There was an agreement between

the three leaders. And then during the working session the promise made

in front of the King was not kept.

Post: So what is the solution to the deadlock?

Hor Nam Hong: Maybe a new meeting with the King.

I have hope. You never know what is in the mind of their leaders. But Funcinpec

should also be careful, it should know how far it can go in its maneuvers.

They always accuse the CPP and Mr Hun Sen of caused their internal problems

in the past they should not go back to that in the future. Most of all,

some wisdom is needed. One should respect the will of the people in which

there has been such a high turnout [of voters]. So how to interpret the

massive vote of the Cambodians? It is to have peace, political stability

and a higher standard of living. One should not seek the power for himself

and his party at all costs. The CPP said it respects the [important] role

of the opposition. But the massive vote has a very strong political meaning.

Post: Is there much time left to get things right? ASEAN said it is not

ready to allow Cambodia to join its group, the US said they want a government

before any decision on the UN seat is made, and all that is delaying the

economic recovery?

Hor Nam Hong: The people on the streets are aware

of that. The investment is not coming because everyone is waiting. Cambodia

cannot enter ASEAN, the seat at UN is vacant. The CPP wish to form a government

as soon as possible. Even the people in the streets wish that a representative

government be formed. Everyone is aware of that except the opposition. They

should ask themselves whether they are helping the country, and they also

should ask whether they are democrats themselves.

Post: But they could be afraid, that if they agree to the steering committee

and to form the government, their post-election demands will not be addressed?

Hor Nam Hong: What are those problems? The seat

allocation formula?You know how things have happened. They were informed

in May, they received the document. Why they did not contest it at the time?

Because they hoped to win and have the most number of seats with the biggest

remaining allocation formula. Remember Rainsy always said he was going to

win. They were convinced they would win, that is why they accepted this

[formula]. As they lost, they contested it. It is not honest. About frauds,

the observers said they [had been more vigilant than] in other countries.

Post: Since the beginning of the year Hun Sen has been restraining himself.

He made concessions, he followed advice from yourself and from some embassies

to be less impulsive. The election has been internationally recognized.

But the opposition is dragging its feet over joining the coalition. It is

as if his victory was stolen. What does Hun Sen feel? Is he upset, angry?

Hor Nam Hong: I do not know exactly his heart.

But what I can tell you is that he is patient. He shows his patience and

calm. We have done everything, we have set up everything with the international

community, we made so many concessions and [he is still patient]. He still

hopes to reach a solution otherwise he says, as in any other country, the

current government will keep working and wait for the new government to

be set up, and then transfer power. As long as there is no new government,

this government will keep on managing the country. It is not possible to

have a country without a government. We did not think before the election,

given that we were ready to hand over power, that the opposition would adopt

such an attitude. We are a bit surprised because we believed that they were

trustworthy when they were talking about democracy, but we did not know

that their application of democracy was: As long as I win I apply democracy

but not when I lose. We are disappointed. I do not think... that his victory

was stolen, of course we are very happy to have won. And if there is a party

that needs to ask a few questions [about the election] it is really the

CPP. We have 4 million members and we hardly had more than 2 million votes.

Post: Was the question asked within the CPP what happened to the votes?

Hor Nam Hong: No, we will do it later when everything

has been settled.

Post: In April and May, some members of the CPP were upset that Hun Sen

was making so many concessions towards the opposition. What is Hun Sen's

answer to those people today?

Hor Nam Hong: It is true that not everyone understood

the concessions made to the opposition but it has been explained and everyone

nowtrusts him. There is no problem in the CPP.

Post: Is the hardline wing of the party pushing Hun Sen to be tougher?

Hor Nam Hong: I do not think so. You know there

is no "hardline wing" in the party. Maybe there are some elements,

some personalities, who do not have the same appreciation of the political

scene. But there is no hardline wing, that would imply a group but there

is no group.

Post: So the Prime Minister has a lot of room to maneuver?

Hor Nam Hong: Everyone trusts him.

Post: Are some getting worried? It is more than two months after the election

and still no government.?

Hor Nam Hong: It is true. It is true we are nearly

at the end [but] not yet at the extreme end of our patience. Impatient to

have a new government. Anyway, we already have a de facto Prime Minister.

Ung Huot has withdrawn himself. There is a Prime Minister. I do not think

we are in such a hurry. We want to have a government as soon as possible

but we can wait a little bit more.

Post: Are the external pressures not so bad, so that you don't have to hurry?

Hor Nam Hong: What is the pressure? To have the

government as soon as possible. It goes in the same direction as the CPP.

The pressure is more on the opposition.

Post: I meant economic pressure.

Hor Nam Hong: That is an internal problem, it is

not pressure. We need investment to give employment to the youth, to increase

the standard of living of the people. That is what pressures the CPP. That

is not a question of the government. Anyway, we are already in the government.

[The pressure] it is for the welfare of the people, to boost the economy.

Post: You said there is a de facto prime minister. But this weekend the

US Congress adopted Rohrabacher's resolution condemning Hun Sen as a war

criminal. How is it possible that the chief of government is someone that

has been condemned by the legislative body of one of the most powerful countries?

Hor Nam Hong: First you need to make a difference

between a resolution of one chamber of the Congress, not yet two chambers,

and a law. It is different. Did you see the US embassy press release? This

resolution does not oblige the US government. We were told it was just an

idea of few people in the Congress. And I do not think that Mr Rohrabacher

is apolitical leader with ideas to the level of his function. I think he

is rather a demagogue. This resolution [was] to gain him more votes in the

next election. We are a bit sad that there are some demagogues within the

US congress but that's it. And it must be said to Rohrabacher: who more

than Hun Sen has worked for the country? It's true he was in the ranks of

the Khmer Rouge. But as he always says he joined on the King's appeal to

fight against the American-Vietnamese invasion. It was a coup d'etat that

made him join. And then in 1977, he decided to go to Vietnam. Why? Because

he realized that there were genocidal measures [in the regime]. In Vietnam

he was in jail more than 20 days. And the Vietnamese told him it was impossible

to help him. It was only when the Khmer Rouge attacked the Vietnamese that

the they agreed to help Hun Sen and others to form the national united front,

a little army that would come with the Vietnamese. He was the main organizer

of this resistance to overthrow the Khmer Rouge and save how many millions

of Cambodians from death? What did he do after the overthrow of the Khmer

Rouge, after January 7 [1979], how did he feed all those people coming out

from the forest? I was there. It was terrible, terrible. How much did he

do to solve this problem? And how much did he do to solve the Khmer Rouge

problem? That is why we do not give more value to Rohrabacher's resolution.

It should not be given more importance than it has.

Post: How do you understand the different diplomatic approaches between

France and the United States after July last year?

Hor Nam Hong: Among the foreigners, it is France

that best understands Cambodia because of its historical links and the quality

of its diplomacy. That being said the [approaches] between the French and

the US are not so important. Maybe there is the point of view of the IRI,

the point of view of Rohrabacher and some of his partisans, but the US government

did not take a very, very bad position. What they are asking it is the formation

of a coalition government, a government that answers the wish of Cambodians.

This is normal. What is different between France and US is that there are

no French [political] institutes or personalities within their Assembly,

as in the US, that have taken gross positions against the truth.

Post: Do you think that the Funcinpec attitude today can be compared to

the CPP's in 1993? [That this is a similar] harsh post-electoral bargaining


Hor Nam Hong: Political bargaining is normal. But

there is a difference between 1993 and 1998. The election in 1993 lasted

one week. The CPP maintained from the first day that there were irregularities.

Wechallenged as early as the first day. During the electoral week, we met

[UNTAC chief] Mr Akashi several times. It is only with the King's proposal

that we agreed. It is not, as it is often said, that the CPP imposed a coalition

because it lost. That is not true. The King said in the name of national

reconciliation we should not talk about winners and losers. After the King's

proposal we agreed to drop the complaint. Today, it is completely different.

Post: The CPP also used military pressure with the threat of a secession

of the eastern provinces...

Hor Nam Hong: That needs clarification. The secession

was from Prince Chakrapong. It was Hun Sen who, once he agreed to the King's

proposal, went to Kompong Cham, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and asked the people

not to support the secession. Already those people were against Hun Sen

because he made concessions to UNTAC [and] the King. That is why those same

people made the coup d'etat attempt in 1994 against him. At this time there

were hard elements, extremists within the CPP, who did not agree to the

solution proposed by the King and who were always unhappy with Hun Sen's

conciliatory position. You see the logic in that.

Post: Why didn't Hun Sen stop the secession before the King's proposal?

He did not prevent the [secession] from taking place.

Hor Nam Hong: I do not exactly remember the date

but anyway those people took that decision because they refused to accept

the result. Hun Sen was not for those people since that [secession] attempt

but there were meetings nearly everyday with UNTAC and with the King. That

is why he could not go. I can tell you that is not the idea of Hun Sen.

At that time, we can say there was a hard little group within the CPP, led

by Chak-rapong. Today there is no hard wing, but at this time, [there was]

not really a wing but rather a group of extremists.

Post: Do you think that Hun Sen is worried after what had happened in Siem

Reap? Was there a reshuffle within his security?

Hor Nam Hong: It was a failure from his security

that needs to be noted. Hun Sen [was a soldier, and yet] he said that [the

attack] really shocked him. There has not yet been any security reshuffle.

Post: What do you think of Sam Rainsy's lobbying tour?

Hor Nam Hong: Sam Rainsy's goal after the election

[was destructive], that's why he organized the demonstrations... and to

otherwise prevent the Assembly from meeting... I regret that there are these


Post: The opposition has said it is ready to work with the CPP, butwithout

Mr Hun Sen?

Hor Nam Hong: How can we talk about such things?

Is this possible that in France the coalition asks for the departure of

Lionel Jospin to work with the socialists? Is it possible that in Germany

the Greens can ask Schroder to be turned down to form the government with

the SPD? No, one needs to be reasonable. It was the people who chose Hun

Sen because we declared that if the CPP won Hun Sen would be prime minister.

I would have approved of the demonstrations had the CPP lost and refused

to give up power.

Post: What about the concession about the government portfolios? Hun Sen

says he is ready to discuss the five ministries that he was first only willing

to keep for the CPP. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was one, and you are

one of the favorites for this portfolio. Have any decisions been made?

Hor Nam Hong: We have not yet talked about this.

There are two steps to discuss the National Assembly and the government.

Without the Assembly, nothing can be done. Only then will we talk about

the government. The CPP has not yet decided to give up the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs. Not yet. But I do not insist on a ministerial position to the detriment

of the general interest.

Post: Why is the opposition blocking the position of Assembly president?

The CPP candidate is Chea Sim. Is there any concession possible on that?

Hor Nam Hong: I do not think so. The [opposition]

is not reasonable in its demand. It is not for the losers to impose to the

winners. If there is not the principle of two-thirds [to make a parliamentary

majority] which does not exist any other democratic country they should

not have asked for such a clause.

Post: What advice are you are giving Hun Sen toward

ASEAN, and toward the US?

Hor Nam Hong: He does not need my advice. He understands

very well. He has lots of experience and well understands the interests

of the country. That is why he made so many concessions. He really wants

to build a democratic society that's why, for instance, he declared next

year there will be municipal elections otherwise we could know a coup d'etat

and what could we say to our children in the future. The national human

rights body, all goes in that direction. He wants to go forward toward democratization.

Everyone should take part. All politicians should agree with each other

to move forward towards democracy. When we signed the Paris peace agreement,

we clearly understood what would be the future of Cambodia. We signed to

put anend to the civil war, and for democracy, liberty and human rights.

We did not sign the agreement blindly. Again, do not forget that we are

in the process of learning democracy. You remember in the 1960's, when the

newly independent countries were choosing socialism, [and] Lenin said that

those countries have the infantile disease of socialism? I say that Cambodia

is [suffering from] the infantile disease of democracy. I compare Cambodian

democracy with the child learning to walk. If the child falls do you slap

him? Or put him back on his feet and encourage him to walk?

Post: You said you signed the Paris agreement in a commitment toward democracy

and human rights, but after last July there were a lot of political executions,

about 100. How can you explain that for people who committed themselves

to peace and democracy?

Hor Nam Hong: You go back to that. It is good to

clarify the July events. Was Prince Ranariddh in collusion with the Khmer

Rouge or not? The Phnom Penh Post published the documents seized in Anlong

Veng. Did [Ranariddh] bring the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh or not? Ask the

French Embassy who had to protest for having Khmer Rouge next to its compound.

Did [Ranariddh] illegally import weapons? To do what? To give to those Khmer

Rouge who were in Phnom Penh as bodyguards of Nhek Bun Chhay, Serey Kosal,

of Ranariddh. And it was not the first time that he had imported weapons.

It is impossible to know how many died during the fighting, how many fled,

how many were executed. Remember the last statement of the UN Center for

Human Rights about the political killings before the election? Remember

the statement of the Greek who worked for the Center? How people within

the Center were pressured to always discover human rights violations? When,

in the protocol of the center, is it to help Cambodians consolidate democracy

and human rights whereas instead they constantly looked for cases to accuse.

Post: Also, after the demonstrations there was a wave of repression against

some demonstrators, some leaders...

Hor Nam Hong: How long did these demonstrations

take place without a legal authorization of the government? How long could

we let them? Six months? Everything started with the Vietnamese massacre,

the destruction of the monument and incitement to violence. There were some

acts of violence during the repression [but] that could happen anywhere

in the world. It is to be condemned, but it is not unique to Cambodia. We

tried our best to prevent people from carrying guns, only to use sticks.

Post: I was not talking about the police crackdown,

but rather about the wave of elimination of some demonstrators by secret


Hor Nam Hong: I do not know exactly. If those people

have been kidnapped and killed by the police we need to look for evidence.

It is true we have detained some people who incited violence but if you

saw the provocation of those people and the insult even in front of Hun

Sen's house... Anyway, all forms of violence are to be condemned and we

did as much as we could to prevent the use of violence by security forces.

Post: The police operation on the sit-in may be justified, but for a country

committed to human rights the physical elimination of opponents...

Hor Nam Hong: I am not aware of the physical elimination

of demonstrators. I read in the newspaper that human rights organization

discovered [bodies] here and there but until now there is no evidence.

Post: Today, some people are worried. We reach deadlock, Hun Sen has his

back to the wall. Some are worried that Cambodia could tend toward the Burma

[regime]. Hun Sen may be ready to crack-down, to say `OK, I made lots of

concessions, but today victory is slipping away'.

Hor Nam Hong: Anyway, it is Burma the other way

around. [The opposition] lost the election here and they do not accept it.

If they had [military] forces, they would have taken the power. So it is

Burma the other way around because they do not have the forces.

Post: You do not think that we could reach a point where martial law could

be imposed?

Hor Nam Hong: No. I do not think so. If the solution

completely slips away... [but] till now this idea is not at all in the leaders'

minds. What is at stake is the development of the country, increasing the

standard of living, the adhesion of the country to ASEAN. It is not really

the problem of Hun Sen or the CPP. The problem is the development of the

country, and to give work to the people. The opposition block is influencing

these problems.

Post: Some diplomats and observers wonder whether a peaceful solution can

be reached, or instead there will be a hardening like last week there were

threats against the newspapers...

Hor Nam Hong: The threat against the newspapers

was because somepeople are upset with Rohrabacher.

Post: But what would you say to the people who are worrying?

Hor Nam Hong: First, the present government will

keep working. Second, maybe we can reach a solution one way or another.

That is our hope. It needs time but maybe we can reach a solution. The government

stays. What is at stake, it is not Hun Sen or the CPP but it is the life

of the people that is at stake.


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