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Ranariddh defends negotiations to end violence

Ranariddh defends negotiations to end violence


ìWhat do you want? You want a real bloodshed in this country or not? I think that my people will understand. [They] will understand we as leaders of the nation, we could not bring all the people to death.î ñ Ranariddh, Sept 14

A WEEK of pitched street confrontations between pro-opposition protesters and police

virtually ended Sept 14 with Prince Norodom Ranariddh's decision to talk.

Talk. Finally. To his ally, Sam Rainsy. To his father King Sih-anouk. To his foes,

first CPP President Chea Sim, then to Prime Minister-elect Hun Sen at a "summit"

meeting Sept 22.

Ranariddh's decision, along with protest instigator Rainsy, has been widely welcomed.

But, nevertheless, it has brought about questions in many minds as to the pair's


The essence of their support to "the people's will" rallies - which were

created and encouraged by the two political leaders, but foremost Rainsy - was to

resolve festering disputes within the electoral process. The opposition parties pared

down their demands to just two points: change the formula that was used to apportion

seats to votes; and publicly account for the used and unused ballots.

The popular protests quickly changed tack to demand Hun Sen's ouster, even as CPP

authorities procrastinated for 16 days about using force.

Both Ranariddh and Rainsy repeatedly said they would not begin negotiating with the

CPP unless their demands were met. But they have now begun negotiations and none

of their demands have so far been met.

Furthermore, up to 18 of their supporters, and probably more, are dead.

One Khmer voter explained his feelings as follows: it's too late to "welcome"

Ranariddh and Rainsy's decision to talk, he said. Nothing has changed since the protests

first began in late August. He said the only difference now was that Ranariddh had

been scared - scared for his own life following an armed CPP rally through the capital's

streets that was protected by police.

A diplomatic source differed, saying Ranariddh had instead been scared by Rainsy's

"need for martyrs, like in Indonesia. But this is not Jakarta... Neither of

them cares about the people," he said. "Ranariddh now understands he had

been trapped by Rainsy in a game that would only have seen him lose... Everyone knew

the [violent] consequences of Rainsy's activities - it could have been a bloodbath

- and Ranariddh knows that now better than most."

The Post attempted to question Ranariddh and Rainsy. Why stop the demonstrations

now? Why weren't they stopped after the first person was killed - Chem Pich, the

moto-driver, outside the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana on Sept 7? Why was there no effort

to stop the protests before they became - as they later claimed - uncontrollable?

Rainsy, however, was still holed up in the offices of UN special representative Lakhan

Mehrotra. So was his wife, Tioulong Saumura and their young daughter.

Neither, under such protection, is allowed to speak publicly. Questioning Rainsy

and Saumura, then, must wait till a calmer day.

News organizations are still receiving faxes expressing the views of the president

of the Sam Rainsy Party. A noticeable one was the statement sent to the media Sept

14 in which the party reprinted Rainsy speeches that were softer in tone those he

had earlier delivered. Quotes from Rainsy asking for the United States to bomb Hun

Sen's residence were not reprinted.

Journalists, however, did get to Ranariddh. After finishing a luncheon in the Cambodiana

with Rainsy, Thai and UN representatives that included poached salmon steaks, the

Prince was ambushed by a pack of journalists as he made his way downstairs to his

car. Rainsy slipped away almost unnoticed.

The following are some of Ranariddh's answers to questions that his own supporters

have shown an interest in asking, such as why the demonstrations were ordered stopped:

Ranariddh: "For [the protesters'] very courageous [stance] for democracy and

justice in this country one.

Secondly, I ask them to call off any demonstration because now we are reaching, thanks

to their efforts and thanks to the effort of the international community, a new turning

point. [The] turning point now we are reaching [is] the negotiating time, so both

sides now have agreed to restraint, not making any demonstration...

My third point, His Excellency Sam Rainsy and I, have agreed to attend any summit

meeting... Following the summit meeting, we will be able, I hope, to move to a democratic

process... at least to move, but it depends - I have to be very clear on this - it

depends on the outcome of the summit meeting...

WTN: But the demonstrators?

Ranariddh: ... If [there is] no positive response from the authorities to our demands

on the election and so on, it will not be possible even for me to, let's say, call

[the protesters] off again. It is dangerous, therefore, it is not enough to pressure

the opposition but give it back in turn to a concrete... a positive response and

starting with the lifting of any interdiction for the MP and leaders to move and

freedom of movement [and] freedom of any arrest.

WTN: What is the progress in your talks?

Ranariddh: Talks are going on. It is for me premature [to talk about them] but I

say it's progress because now we are reaching a new turning point which is a negotiation

time, not only demonstration.

WTN: What is the exact outcome you are looking for from the government side?

Ranariddh: To show goodwill. That there are no threats against Sam Rainsy and other

leaders from the opposition... [they stop] their use of forces anymore, and we try

to calm down our supporters, and finally technical considerations, our two demands

which are very reasonable. We have dropped almost all from 800 [demands] down to


Associated Press: When will you talk to your supporters?

Ranariddh: I do not need [to]. I ask you to do it and the Voice of America did it

very well yesterday, it's continuing. But we have issued another statement calling

off any demonstration.

Post: Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy are stirring up the genuine anger of the people and

now you are ready to negotiate with the man you were asking to resign a few days

ago. How can you face your supporters now?

Ranariddh: No... Any political actions, etc must have a way out... you cannot bring

all the people like this - until their backs [are against] the wall. No, I think

that we have to be reasonable. That we have to negotiate under his Majesty the King.

We have to meet, the two parties have to meet as far as Samdech Hun Sen is concerned.

We have to talk. We still have a long, long, long way to go. We have to talk step

by step. Please contribute to facilitate the solution and not create any difficulties.

Post: But do you think it is responsible for political leaders to stir up social

unrest for political bargaining?

Ranariddh: You see, it is up to the demands of the people that are very clear and

let us solve this problem under the leadership of His Majesty the King. It depends

on the outcome [whether] we will join or not the National Assembly, so we will bring

to the negotiation table all the points of the demands of the people. Yes, it is

quite clear.

Post: So what will you address to your people. You have so many people every day

in the streets?

Ranariddh: Yes, we have said already, please slow down and wait for the outcome of

the summit meeting. Thank you.

Post: How many ministerial positions do you think you will be able to have because

of the social unrest in the streets in the past few weeks?

Ranariddh: What, what minister? I do not understand.

Post: Do you think you will be able to have better ministries?

Ranariddh: No, we are not bargaining for any portfolios, for any portfolios, no,

no. It is very premature to talk about the formation of the government. We have to

talk about the National Assembly first and so we still have a long way, a lot of

road to go.

Post: When are you going to address your supporters who are still in the streets

facing the police?

Ranariddh: But we have sent already you know - ha, ha - we have issued a communiqué

and so on. And I cannot address my supporters [at a] time when I do not have a concrete

and positive response from the other side also.

Post: Do you think they will understand that you are ready to negotiate, they are

still in the streets asking for Hun Sen to resign and you are ready to negotiate

with Hun Sen?

Ranariddh: What do you want? You want a real bloodshed in this country or not? I

think that my people will understand. [They] will understand we as leaders of the

nation, we could not bring all the people to death. If there is little possibility

to bring back peace to this country, to live a normal life in this country and [that]

their demands will be fulfilled. How to fulfill those demands without talking? You

cannot fulfill those demands by killing people one after another until the end of

the Cambodian race. I think that we have to be reasonable on this one.

Post: Why was not this decision made two weeks ago to avoid the bloodshed?

Ranariddh: No, you see we have to be very clear. For 16 days it was a peaceful demonstration.

But only when the crackdown started that the peaceful demonstration turned [a] very

bloody and very violent one. So we have to talk about responsibility as well, but

we cannot do anything through demonstrations.

"You know I [did not] participate [with these] demonstrations. I think that

the only one way out is the time when both sides realize that it is time to give

a chance to this country to survive. We have to take it.

As a leader... you know you cannot find more stronger, let's say leader - fighter

even - than Mr Sam Rainsy. I was much more relaxed, much more cool than Mr Sam Rainsy.

But even Sam Rainsy has decided now - has realized now - that we have to give a chance

to this country, to the people of this country to get out of the situation and to

live a normal life.

(The Prince points to the entrance of the Mekong restaurant) I would like to see

more clients, more customers for this hotel. I have to provide more jobs and employment

for them. The only one way out is to really put an end to this... but at the same

time to take care of the will of the people and to defend what they are willing,

through their demonstrations, [for] more than 16 days now.

AFP: So you think that the 16 days of demonstration are like a test for democracy?

Now you know you cannot succeed...?

Ranariddh: No, no, no. One, it is a real test for democracy in this country. And

second, we have installed in this country new traditions of democracy and thirdly,

thanks to [demonstrations] we can talk and we can talk fruitfully.

Post: OK, four people have died and several have been injured during the demonstration,

so from their blood you are ready to negotiate now?

Ranariddh: Why are you like this? You are coming from what newspaper? What is your


Post: Phnom Penh Post.

Ranariddh: Ah... Phnom Penh Post. It is not the mentality of the Phnom Penh Post.

(The journalists laugh). I think that is the new Phnom Penh Post blood.

OK good, its... very good. We would not negotiate through any blood. We feel very

harm. We feel very sorry, Miss, for this. They are not four - they are more than

four, and for the first time in this country monks have been beaten, Buddhist monks

have been killed and so it is in order to put an end to more killings, to more bloodshed,

that we negotiate, but we negotiate not in a weak position. I don't use their blood

to negotiate, I have to negotiate because I do not want more bloodshed. This is different.

Post: So will you work with Sam-dech Hun Sen?

Ranariddh: Definitely not.


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