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National Front's leadership unclear

National Front's leadership unclear

THE newly-formed National United Front (NUF) has dodged - for now - the key question

of its leadership by agreeing to share the chairmanship of its ad hoc working committee.

The four parties who make up NUF are taking turns to chair weekly meetings of the

committee, while a more formalized hierarchy has yet to be set.

The key question is whether Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh will be made

its president.

The Secretary-General of the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), Khieu Rada, said last week

he believed that co-presidents of NUF would eventually be appointed.

Ly Thuch, an advisor to Ranariddh, said that "we have not yet reached the time

to decide who will be president".

Funcinpec MP Ahmad Yahya said the leadership issue was potentially divisive, adding:

"Can everyone recognize Prince Ranariddh as the leader of NUF? If they can resolve

this problem, it will be good."

Political observers noted that the putting aside of former differences and rivalries

- most notably between Ranariddh and KNP leader Sam Rainsy, who set up his own party

after being ousted from Funcinpec - will be critical to the NUF's cohesiveness as

a political force.

Rainsy, out of the country, could not be contacted for comment this week, but Khieu

Rada - himself a former Funcinpec member - said KNP and Funcinpec could work together.

"The ideas of myself and Sam Rainsy have never changed," Rada said. "Funcinpec

has changed a little, Funcinpec has turned back on the right track, so we can work

with them."

Ranariddh last month played down any prospect of conflict within NUF, saying that

parties which joined it would be able to keep their own identity and autonomy. Hun

Sen, the co-Prime Minister and CPP leader, has publicly predicted personality problems

between Ranariddh and Rainsy.

Funcinpec, KNP, the Son Sann-led Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) and the

Khmer Neutral Party have all appointed representatives to a NUF ad hoc committee.

Its second meeting was held Feb 13 under the chairmanship of BLDP MP Thach Reng,

who said that members agreed to establish a separate secretariat of NUF. So far,

the front has been based at Funcinpec's Phnom Penh headquarters.

The meeting also agreed to finalize a political charter for NUF and arrange a national

congress.

A proposed NUF charter, drafted by Funcinpec, includes provisions which appear critical

of Vietnam and of the former Cambodian communist regimes.

The draft says that NUF does not recognize any treaty signed by Cambodia between

the overthrow of King Norodom Sihanouk in March 1970 and the Paris peace agreements

of 1991 - an implicit reference to land treaties signed between Vietnam and Cambodia

in the 1980s.

The charter also declares that NUF does not have any "political or military

debt" to any neighboring country - a reference to the 1979 Vietnamese eviction

of the Pol Pot regime - and that the front will not tolerate "an inch"

of Cambodian territory being abandoned to any neighbor.

Another proposed NUF policy - directed at former regimes in which Hun Sen held senior

positions - is for an inquiry to investigate "illegal" sales of state property

in the past.

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