POLITICAL jockeying and inter-party rivalries appear to be growing as
speculation mounts over the King's role in peace efforts.
public silence on political issues since his Jan 4 return to Cambodia, King
Norodom Sihanouk has called for a Khmer Rouge political party to be
Meanwhile, rumor and speculation are rife over possible attempts
from some political quarters to give the King greater power to pursue his aim of
Funcinpec MPs have been instructed not to gather
in groups of more than six at one time in an apparent bid to prevent any
There are renewed suggestions of a new Sam Rainsy-Prince
Norodom Sirivudh political party being in the works, while Rainsy himself says
he believes the King has some kind of "scheme" to seek greater political
In a Jan 22 speech in Siem Reap, the King appealed directly to KR
nominal leader Khieu Samphan to form his own political party to vie in the 1988
Explicitly rejected was the possibility of KR chiefs such as
Pol Pot or Ta Mok ever returning to Phnom Penh, as the King said they "should be
But he "begged" other senior KR figures - and their rank and
file - to lay down their weapons and rejoin society.
He said they should
pursue their aims politically, not militarily, and suggested they could start
their own newspaper.
The King said there was no more he could do to bring
about national reconciliation. Any move by him to have the KR included in the
current ruling government would be unconstitutional, he said, as he had no power
to do so.
"Not only the KR [but] even the King, even Sihanouk who is King
of the people, cannot violate the constitution," he said.
amnesty to KR - despite the Jan 15 end to the government's official six-month
amnesty - who surrendered but stressed they all had to abide by the
constitution. The government, meanwhile, has confirmed it is considering
extending the amnesty.
Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said that, in line
with the King's view, a proposal for an extension had gone to the Cabinet. It
was likely to go before the National Assembly for a vote.
The question of
extending the amnesty is one of several issues - including proposals to soften
the draft press law - where appeals by the King have been supported by senior
Sam Rainsy, the sacked finance minister considered
to be close to the King, told the Post he believed the King had a proposal to
seek greater power.
Asked what it was, he referred to the plan the King
outlined to the Post in an interview last June.
"Even if the King doesn't
say it any longer...he probably has some similar scheme even more relevant to
the present circumstances," Rainsy said.
In the June interview, King
Sihanouk unveiled a detailed plan to form a national reconciliation government -
but only with the agreement of MPs, and particularly those of the Cambodian
People's Party - which would include senior KR.
The interview prompted
CPP leader Hun Sen to write an open letter rejecting any such proposal to the
King, who responded by saying he would "no longer intervene in the affairs of
the Royal Government".
Rainsy said he would not speculate on what kind of
power the King might now seek, other than he would not resort to illegal means,
but believed he should be helped.
"It's the will of the people. If we
have to choose between Hun Sen and the King, we will not hesitate one second.
That is why Hun Sen is getting nervous."
Another MP told the Post that
the Phnom Penh political rumor mill had been in full cry over recent
"There have been a lot of reports - that there is a coup coming
tonight or tomorrow night, or that you will be killed if you plan to give power
to the King, that sort of thing."
The BLDP party's president, Son Sann,
made an "urgent appeal" on Dec 27 for King Sihanouk to be given "all powers
necessary" to achieve national reconciliation.
The statement clearly
angered many, including Co-Prime Ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen,
who have said any such move would be unconstitutional.
Hun Sen, in a Dec
31 speech to Kompong Som naval officers, appealed to the military to support the
government to defend the constitution. "We should prepare ourselves to condemn
anyone who tries to destroy the constitution," he said. "The Royal Armed Forces
must prevent this occurrence."
Meanwhile, the Voice of Khmer Youth
newspaper - widely considered to have close links with Rainsy
- recently reported that the possibility of Rainsy and close ally Prince
Norodom Sirivudh forming a new political party had been discussed with the King.
A source told the Post the matter had been broached with the King, but
not directly by either Rainsy or Sirivudh.
Political observers suggest a
new political party is likely to be in the pipeline, but not until much closer
to the next elections, due to be held in 1998. They say that Rainsy and Sirivudh
can achieve more by maintaining and developing their links with other dissenters
Rainsy, asked to comment, denied any imminent prospect
of forming a new party. He said he and Prince Sirivudh could work within
He said Prince Sirivudh had agreed to remain as
Secretary-General of Funcinpec after Prince Ranariddh "begged" him not to