Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened to cut off political negotiations with Funcinpec
and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) if they remain opposed to his election as Prime Minister.
"If you still continue speaking in language excluding Hun Sen, I will not talk
to you," said Hun Sen during an impassioned broadcast on national television
on December 29. Hun Sen repeated that he is entitled to remain as Prime Minister
since the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won a majority of votes in the July 27 elections.
"If the spirit of the November 5 agreement [brokered by the King] is not carried
out, there will be no need to hold future negotiations because it is a waste of time,"
said Hun Sen, referring to a proposal for Hun Sen to remain as Prime Minister, Funcinpec
leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh as National Assembly president and opposition leader
Sam Rainsy to be appointed as either vice-president or deputy Prime Minister. The
CPP has stated its willingness to maintain the caretaker government indefinitely.
However the Alliance of Democrats, the political union between SRP and Funcinpec,
backtracked on previous statements rejecting Hun Sen as Prime Minister and said it
will accept his candidacy if the CPP agrees to certain conditions. The Alliance has
said it would not guarantee Hun Sen receives two-thirds of the votes in the National
Assembly to confirm him as Prime Minister.
Ok Socheat, deputy secretary-general of Funcinpec, said political negotiations among
the three main political parties had opened up the possibility of a political compromise.
The three main political parties failed to reach a political agreement during the
last meeting on December 17 and no date has been scheduled to resume talks.
"I think that parties were close to reaching a consensus on a political platform,
but the key issue is now the mechanism to guarantee a political agreement meeting
the demands of the three parties," said the Royalist official. "We had
to work with the CPP for ten years and it cheated Funcinpec at all time."
To establish a new tri-partite government , Funcinpec and SRP requested that each
political party appoint a deputy prime minister to the Council of Ministers, according
to a copy of a proposal by the Alliance obtained by the Post.
The December 6 document states that each political party must control one-third of
the positions in provincial, municipal and district governments, as well as posts
in the military, police and diplomatic service. Funcinpec and SRP must also receive
licenses for radio and television outlets.
Other demands call for reform of the National Election Committee and the judicial
system. The government is also expected to invite the US Federal Bureau of Investigation
to complete its inquiry of the lethal grenade attack on opposition demonstrators
in 1997, reappoint Global Witness as official forestry monitor and disclose commercial
contracts of natural resource concessions.
The new government must also review allegedly inappropriate contracts for the concession
of Angkor Wat, renovation of the Olympic Stadium and other privatized state assets.
All of this must be done by June 2004.
"We had to work with the CPP for ten years and it
cheated Funcinpec at all time."
Rainsy said on December 29 that his party wanted to ensure a new National Assembly
convened according to principles laid out by the Constitution.
"We need the new government that respects the interests of the people and the
nation, therefore, we need CPP to promise so it can resolve the national crisis within
the time we have requested," said Rainsy.
Khieu Kanharith, spokesman for the CPP, said on December 31 that his party had not
committed to forming a coalition government. However, once a decision was made, a
government could be established within two days.
The political crisis also prompted international protests from the Khmer community
living in Australia who were especially critical of King Norodom Sihanouk.
In a stinging rebuke to the King's support for Prime Minister Hun Sen, a petition
sent by 26 people to the Palace condemned the King for pressuring "democrats"
to accept Hun Sen as Prime Minister and blamed Cambodia's woes on the King's leadership.
"Mr Hun Sen has led the government for more than two decades but this government
has ruined the nation," the letter stated. "Your Majesty appealed and forced
the democrats to accept and share power [after the 1993 election] with the dictator
and gave him an opportunity to continue his dictatorial policy." The December
27 petition added that the King's actions had left a bloody legacy including the
fractional fighting of 1997 and, more recently, the anti-Thai riots last January.