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Big election role suggested for King

Big election role suggested for King

C AMBODIA's next election should be run by an independent commission headed by

the King, and the armed forces put under his control during the election period,

according to First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Ranariddh -

who stressed he was expressing his personal view only - outlined his proposals

for the next election to a meeting of Cambodian human rights groups on April

29.

He said the election, due in 1998, should be run by Cambodians

themselves with three key conditions.

"One, there should be an

independent commission to be presided over by His Majesty the King, as the

father of the nation.

"Secondly, all armed forces - military and police -

must be...independent and neutral and put under direct control of the King, not

of any government.

"The third condition is that governors of [all]

provinces, districts and sub-districts must really be neutral," Ranariddh

said.

He believed the 1998 election could be free, fair and democratic if

these conditions were met.

Cambodian parliamentarians were recently urged

by two visiting foreign experts to begin preparing for the next election, to

ensure it could be held on time.

Cambodia's constitution says an

electoral organizing body and the procedures for holding elections must be

defined by an electoral law. No such law has yet been prepared.

There has

also been debate over what type of electoral system was best for Cambodia, but

Prince Ranariddh did not touch on that issue in his comments.

He did,

however, express the hope that the party which won the elections should form a

coalition government, in order to provide stability to the country.

But

he continued: "The winner should deserve some pride as well. There should be

transparency, there should be something in conformity with the real will the

people express through that free, fair and democratic

election."

Ranariddh's Funcinpec party, despite winning the most votes at

Cambodia's 1993 United Nations-run elections, is frequently claimed by observers

to have less real power than its coalition partner, the Cambodian People's

Party.

Meanwhile, at his meeting with human rights groups, Ranariddh also

faced questioning about the government's bid to have the United Nations Center

for Human Rights (UNCHR) in Cambodia "phased out".

He threw his support

behind the UNCHR, though he complained of its attitude toward the government in

the past.

"We enthusiastically welcome the continued presence of the

center.

"But, we have been disappointed [at UNCHR's] unfair treatment of

us. We should have had discussion about the problems, rather than to make

reports [of allegations]. We want the center to be our friend."

The

Co-Prime Ministers wrote to the UN in March, seeking the UNCHR's withdrawal at

the end of the year. Several senior government officials have since said they do

not mind if it stays in Cambodia.

UN undersecretary-general Marrack

Goulding arrived in Cambodia in early May to investigate whether the UNCHR

should remain after its March 1996 mandate expires.

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