F IRST Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has played down talk of a CPP plot
to disrupt the 1998 general elections, saying he would have expected a better strategy
from such a big party.
Reports among diplomatic and political circles in Phnom Penh of an August 6 meeting
of CPP leaders in which they discussed ballot forgery; voter intimidation; registering
Vietnamese residents; refusing foreign observers from the vote-counting procedure;
and splitting Funcinpec had reached Ranariddh.
"If that is the case, I feel very sorry for a political party as big as the
CPP not to have a more serious strategy than that they spelled out in the August
6 meeting," he said in a Sept 17 interview.
"You see, I never had in mind a strategy how to split the CPP, how to weaken
the CPP, how to buy votes, all this or that," he said.
Ranariddh prefered to concentrate on a Sept 14 meeting between King Norodom Sihanouk,
Hun Sen and himself where Hun Sen swore to the King that from that time on, there
would be no difficulties or differences between Funcinpec and CPP.
"Personally," Ranariddh said, "I feel more and more comfortable."
In the interview, Ranariddh said Funcinpec general Nhek Bun Chhay had been working
for months on the recent Khmer Rouge breakaway with the respective commanders of
Malai and Pailin, So Pheap and Y Chhien, but that Ieng Sary's emergence was "surprising."
He confirmed the important role played by Thai Defence Minister General Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh in steering Sary, Pheap and Chhien to Hun Sen "alone", but
that the KR faction wanted reconciliation with both Cambodian parties.
He suggested that the KR might support him in his outspokenness against "our
eastern neighbour" - Vietnam - as the rebels were "very tough" on
"So maybe I get my supporters in," he said with a laugh. "I was the
only one to talk about the border issues, the ethnic Vietnamese issues. Yes. No-one
supported me, not a lot - except the people.
"But now maybe I'll get support from the Khmer Rouge. It's an important issue
which is very vital for the survival of Cambodia. So Funcinpec will not take advantage
[of the Khmer Rouge split], but maybe the country will take advantage, at least on
this particular issue."
Ranariddh said that Sary's Royal amnesty would not preclude possible future charges
Sary might face from an international tribunal looking into genocide crimes.
He also reiterated his belief that exiled Prince Norodom Sirivudh's case was "a
lot less complicated" than Ieng Sary's, and that "in all fairness an amnesty
should be given" to Sirivudh.
Ranariddh said there had been no pressure brought to bear from Western countries
- "and none whatsoever from Asean" - about Sary's pardon and amnesty. However,
the United States had "expressed its view... but said it was an internal affair