FUNCINPEC and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) are close to finalizing a deal to
share power in local districts, with the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP)
likely to be excluded.
The first step in the deal - giving Funcinpec and CPP an equal number of district
chiefs and vice-chiefs - may be done next month.
BLDP will apparently not be given any district positions unless Funcinpec agrees
to sacrifice some of its own to the smaller party.
The deal - which will break the CPP officials' monopoly on districts throughout Cambodia
- was agreed in principle by Funcinpec and CPP last year. It has been pursued, despite
speculation that it would be abandoned following the exile of Funcinpec's Prince
Norodom Sirivudh, a key player in securing the agreement.
Funcinpec will be allowed to appoint the chiefs of half of Cambodia's 170 districts,
and CPP will keep the others. Those districts which have Funcinpec chiefs will have
CPP vice-chiefs, and vice-versa.
Co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng (CPP) and You Hockry (Funcinpec) have been in
charge of negotiating the arrangements.
Hockry said this week that Funcinpec had virtually finished drawing up its list of
nominees for district positions, as had CPP.
"I was told that the CPP list has been prepared for a long time. They were just
waiting for Funcinpec."
He said the new district chief and vice-chiefs could be appointed by government sub-decree
next month, after Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned from an overseas
Hockry said BLDP, which holds 10 seats in the national assembly, would probably not
get any district positions.
"We don't know who to give them to," he said, referring to last May's splitting
of BLDP into rival factions headed by Ieng Mouly and Son Sann.
But Hockry suggested some arrangement for BLDP could be possible later.
Sar Kheng was unavailable for comment but Prum Sokha, the Interior Ministry's Director
General of Administration, said CPP did not want to give up any of its positions
Sokha said CPP had "many, many" district positions and giving up half of
them to Funcinpec was "not normal", so it did not want to lose more to
"So they [CPP] have asked the Funcinpec people to accept BLDP representatives.
"In my opinion, this is the Cambodian way," said Sokha, who is a CPP member
but stressed he was speaking as an Interior Ministry official, not a party member.
Seng Lapresse, Secretary-General of the Ieng Mouly side of BLDP, disputed Hockry's
comments about the division within BLDP.
"Both Prime Ministers have recognized Ieng Mouly, even the King has recognized
Ieng Mouly, as leader of BLDP.
"We should have some [district positions] according to national reconciliation
and national unity," he said, adding that the Paris peace agreement called for
a sharing of power between parties elected to the National Assembly.
Lapresse said Mouly had been trying to arrange meetings with both Prime Ministers
to discuss the issue.
Asked whether a final deal might be made soon by Funcinpec and CPP without BLDP's
involvement, he said: "Time is not a factor. The understanding that the Paris
peace agreement is to be respected legally, that is the factor."
Representatives of Son Sann's BLDP could not be contacted for comment but they too
are likely to want a slice of any deal.
Sokha said Funcinpec and CPP's nominated district chiefs and vice-chiefs could be
approved by next month, if both parties agreed.
It would take longer to resolve the positions of deputy chiefs, which some districts
have as many as four of, he said.
Some deputy chiefs were "not happy" at the possibility of losing their
jobs, and it could take a "long time" to extend the power-sharing agreement
to include their positions.
CPP had proposed keeping the existing deputies until a decision on their restructuring
was made, and to confirm the appointments of chiefs and vice-chiefs in the meantime.
Loy Sim Chheang, the new Funcinpec Secretary-General who replaced the exiled Sirivudh,
said Funcinpec and CPP had to enter the deal "carefully and slowly to be sure
that we don't hurt each other."
Funcinpec nominees for district positions had been approved by a party committee,
he said. The only unresolved cases were several where nominees had been convicted
or imprisoned under the former State of Cambodia regime.
Funcinpec believed such people should not be barred from holding district positions
if their convictions related to their involvement with the anti-Vietnamese resistance
movement in the 1980s.
But Chheang acknowledged that CPP might object to such nominees, and said Funcinpec
might be willing to replace some candidates if necessary.
Most district officials, who rank between provincial authorities and commune chiefs,
were appointed by CPP's predecessor under the State of Cambodia. Provincial governors
were appointed by arrangement between Funcinpec and CPP after the 1993 UN elections,
and commune chiefs are due to be the subject of local elections next year.