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NUF launch revives political fireworks

NUF launch revives political fireworks

THE National United Front (NUF) was officially launched Feb 27, immediately fueling

tensions between Cambodia's ruling parties Funcinpec and the Cambodian People's Party

(CPP).

In a statement issued the day after the launch of the Funcinpec-allied NUF, CPP accused

Funcinpec of trying to interfere in its internal affairs.

The statement was in response to a comment by Funcinpec leader and First Prime Minister

Prince Norodom Ranariddh that he would present a copy of NUF's political platform

to CPP president Chea Sim.

"The CPP considers the above statement as an act which is aimed at dividing

the CPP," the statement said, implicitly accusing Funcinpec of trying to drive

a wedge between Chea Sim and CPP vice-president and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

After the inauguration of NUF, Prince Ranariddh said he intended to personally bring

the front's platform for Chea Sim to examine, despite Hun Sen's prior refusal to

be part of the front.

The CPP statement said that the public statements of Hun Sen was the official position

of the CPP.

"The CPP finds no need for examining this front's political platform because

it also has its own political program for rehabilitating and developing the country,"

the statement said.

"This front is such an strange thing. A ruling political party allies with a

party which opposes the Royal Government, insults it [calling it] a mafia state and

stirs up endless unrest," it said - referring to Khmer Nation Party (KNP) president

Sam Rainsy, a vocal government critic.

The statement described the front's formation as "welded broken plate",

a clear reference to the reunion between Ranariddh and Rainsy who was dismissed from

Funcinpec.

In a Mar 1 response, Funcinpec criticized the CPP's reaction as being unreasonable

and as causing political instability out of minor and simple matters.

It said that the CPP misunderstood the gesture of Ranariddh, president of Funcinpec

and NUF, to go see Chea Sim as an interference aimed at dividing the CPP.

Responding to the CPP's criticism about the Ranariddh-Rainsy reunion, the Funcinpec

statement said its party had the right to choose its partner to contest in the 1998

election and "does not need advice from - or [does it] intend to give it to

- any political party either".

However, by Wednesday this week both Prime Ministers were making efforts to put the

spat behind them and show a united face.

Joining the entire Council of Ministers for lunch at a restaurant outside Phnom Penh,

the PMs hugged each other.

Hun Sen said the pair would continue to hug each other, "not just three times

but five times a day", as it was their "historical responsibility"

to avoid "any deterioration of the situation".

Ranariddh made no public comment but the Funcinpec deputy PM Ing Kieth said: "It's

better - the sky is now clear."

The earlier furor over NUF - which comprises Funcinpec, KNP, the Son Sann-led Buddhist

Liberal Democratic Party and the Khmer Nation Party - led to both a group of former

Khmer Rouge and the Anlong Veng hardliners chipping in with statements of their own.

The Democratic National United Movement (DNUM), a grouping of former KR, issued a

statement suggesting that it was attracting favorable "national and international

opinions" for its middle stance between Cambodia's ruling parties.

The statement made no mention of the contingent of DNUM delegates sent to 'unofficially'

represent the movement at the NUF congress.

In the Feb 28 statement, spokesman Suong Sikoeun said DNUM was "never happy

to watch clashes between opposing political parties as a referee".

He called on all parties to work toward creating "a non-partisan atmosphere

... to turn the confrontation into handshakes and cooperation for a sole objective

- to solve social and economic issues that are seriously deteriorating".

In what is seen as a defense to clear themselves from Khmer Rouge crimes between

1975-79, the statement said it did not welcome any attempt to review and revive "old

cases that have already become historical inheritance".

"The reason we broke away from the Pol Pot group was because we didn't want

to see Khmer blood being spilled any further," Sikoeun said.

"Any accusation that DNUM's middle stance is a political trick - waiting for

a good opportunity to grab power - is in any way unreasonable and completely contradicting

reality," he said.

Meanwhile, hardline Khmer Rouge radio broadcasts claimed to support the creation

of NUF, while not necessarily endorsing it, and accused CPP of attempting to subdue

the new front.

• In Tam, a former Cambodian prime minister and one-time Royalist, has joined CPP's

new alliance of political parties.

Hun Sen signed an alliance deal with the Democratic Party's deputy leader Ouk Phure,

in the absence of the ailing 79-year-old In Tam.

In Tam served as interior minister and agriculture minister during Norodom Sihanouk's

Sangkum Reastr Niyum in the 1960s and as prime minister in 1973, after Sihanouk's

overthrow.

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