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Last gasp intervention by Sihanouk

Last gasp intervention by Sihanouk

KING Norodom Sihanouk is expected to arrive in Phnom Penh

on Monday, Oct 5, following the breakdown of Sept 29

tripartite talks to form a government.

The Chinese embassy confirmed Sihanouk's trip to Beijing

had been cancelled. "Everything has been

arranged," said one anonymous Palace source,

"he will arrive at 10:30am Monday."

Opposition delegates at the talks maintained their

parties' call to revisit the running of July's election.

They refused to acknowledge the sole CPP agenda which was

to form a coalition.

The opening of parliament has now been delayed. Sihanouk

is

expected to persuade Funcinpec dean Ieng Kieth to open it

and CPP seem to be backing on a bloc of Funcinpec MPs

falling behind the King, rather than Prince Norodom

Ranariddh, one diplomat said.

This assumes, however, that Sihanouk has a genuine desire

to see Funcinpec in a coalition subservient to Hun Sen;

one that many within the Royalist party believe would be

the end of them.

"On the Friday [Sept 25], before [Ranariddh] left

for Thailand, he told Rainsy there would be no deal with

Hun Sen," said one informed source.

The other whisper campaign around Phnom Penh is how

successful the CPP has been in buying or threatening

opposition MPs to split from their parties. CPP just need

18 to secure two-thirds of parliament and a government.

Funcinpec have long been afraid of this. Loyalists to

Ranariddh himself now isolated in Bangkok with no plans

of returning soon are comparing notes on who the probable

defectors from their party might be.

"But [Hun Sen] doesn't have enough yet, otherwise

they could all walk happily into Parliament together.

Remember, he hasn't been successful in pushing

Ranariddh," said one CPP official.

Rainsy himself is now off on an international jaunt to

drum up the sort of international pressure against the

CPP that the opposition moans is not forthcoming from

diplomats here.

"Everything is blocked... it's plain the country

cannot go on like this," said one diplomat. He added

that a senior Funcinpec official had said the party

wanted to keep up the stalemate for two months.

"This has the makings of a major institutional

crisis."

He said: "I think the King knows his

responsibility... If he left for Beijing the country

wouldn't even have a head of state, let along a

government." Sihanouk has long been postponing a

trip to Beijing for medical treatment.

Many analysts are polarized in their views those who

believe that Hun Sen is the one under pressure to achieve

a legitimate government, principally to get aid money

flowing back into his beleaguered economy; to those who

believe Ranariddh's self-imposed holiday is a

"face-saving" step for an inevitable Funcinpec

and possibly Rainsy party split.

"If Ranariddh stays in Bangkok then Funcinpec are

staying firm. If he comes back that's a bad sign for

them, it means he has to come back to prevent a

split," said one source.

Another source told the Post that the 1999 budget had not

yet been struck because 60% of it had to come from the

international community, and the government can't yet

count on that happening.

An independent source confirmed this information.

If the CPP cannot strike a coalition, Hun Sen said the

party would amend the Constitution to run the country

alone, or he would continue governing with Ung Huot.

However, he can't change the Constitution without

Funcinpec's vote, and Japan told Hun Sen in April such a

step was out of the question anyway. A Hun Sen/Huot

government would not be acceptable to international

donors.

"I can imagine a scenario of Funcinpec splitting...

Ieng Kieth and others could find that perfectly

justifiable," said one analyst. "Ieng Kieth

could not refuse the King.

"This can't go on, either politically or

economically," he said. "Hun Sen is very

calm... Ranariddh could lose everything."

"[But] it's very, very dangerous," said

another.

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