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Ranariddh doubtful of UN peace plan

Ranariddh doubtful of UN peace plan

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MAN WITH A PLAN?

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who has steadfastly refused to allow Funcinpec to form a coalition government with the CPP until the opposition's election-related complaints are addressed, said a recent ASEAN statement endorsing the election was "fueling the present situation".

PRINCE Norodom Ranariddh is doubtful whether a plan from UN special representative

Lakhan Mehrotra can solve Cambodia's political crisis.

Ranariddh, in an interview on Sept 10 with a backdrop of thousands of protesters

marching and chanting outside the home of Interior co-Minister You Hockry, outlined

Mehrotra's five-point plan presented to King Sihanouk and the diplomatic community

last week.

The plan calls for respect for law and order, and also for the Constitution that

allows legal demonstrations; the "successful conclusion to the electoral process";

the convening of the National Assembly; and the formation of a new government.

Ranariddh gave vague hints throughout the interview of possible compromises from

his Funcinpec party, but he agreed it was "very difficult" to envisage

an agreement with the CPP on issues such as a change to the controversial formula

used to allocate Assembly seats when technical talks under the aegis of Sihanouk

had already failed.

"I feel the chance to solve the problems starting with the convening of the

National Assembly is getting slimmer and slimmer," Ranariddh said.

The Prince said that neither his party nor "the people" would tolerate

negotiations without Funcinpec's election concerns being first resolved. He said

that he had agreed with Mehrotra "in principle" to attend a Siem Reap meeting

with the CPP, Rainsy, the UN and the King, but that he couldn't and wouldn't do so

without the technical concerns being first resolved.

He said that without a "clear and consistent response" from the CPP, he

and Sam Rainsy "would not be able anymore to control the child" of mass

demonstration they had "given birth to". The Prince claimed it was the

will of the people - rather than that of himself or Rainsy - "who are now going

very far, continuing to ask Hun Sen to step down".

"I think that with a response to the demand of the opposition, maybe we are

able to contribute to ease the tension - not to resolve the problem, but to ease

the tension."

Ranariddh was particularly critical of the international community, saying a recent

ASEAN statement endorsing the election was "fueling the present situation".

The statement, that called for a speedy formation of a coalition, was "encouraging

Hun Sen to continue to use violence and force to crack down on the demonstrations",

he said.

ASEAN issued its statement before the Siem Reap technical meeting that ended in failure.

The statement itself only served "to reinforce the toughness of the CPP delegation...

[and] it gave the green light to Hun Sen to stage his violent repression.

"Without a clear statement like this... I think the meeting in Siem Reap would

have been more successful," Ranariddh said. "ASEAN are just becoming as

traders."

The United States has been "very weak," he said, though France had been

"very surprising" in making a much tougher statement on the political deadlock

than it had ever done in the past. "I must congratulate [French ambassador Gildas]

LeLidec, for the first time in the history of my relationship with Mr LeLidec!"

US Ambassador Kenneth Quinn has already told Funcinpec that the doors of his embassy

were open to them as safe haven, an offer Ranariddh said he thanked Quinn for and

refused "because we are innocent of any crimes like throwing grenades, we are

not criminals".

"It's very strange," Ranariddh said. "Ambassador Quinn told me that

after the crack down [on the protests] the [CPP] would talk. And very surprisingly

yesterday [Sept 9] - one day after the crack down just as Ambassador Quinn said -

[CPP] chairman Chea Sim called me!

"Instead of pressuring Hun Sen to stop using violence against innocent, unarmed

people like monks and students... [the international community] are pressuring us

to recognize as quickly as possible the July 26 elections, without waiting for Mehrotra's

plan or His Majesty the King's mediations. They are pressuring us to form a government!"

Chea Sim asked Ranariddh "how are you?" to which Rana-riddh said he replied

"How am I? Samdech, I'm not very well."

The Prince said Chea Sim then asked him what was happening with the convening of

the National Assembly "because there is a deadline...".

Ranariddh said he told Chea Sim that because of the violence, and the fact that he

and his supporters were being prevented from leaving the country, "that the

atmosphere was not very favorable leading to talks about the National Assembly".

Ranariddh said he then refused an offer that the pair get together for a round of

golf the following weekend.

He added that "personally I'm very sad" at the violence between police

and demonstrators. "I feel so shocked by the images, of monks being beaten,

shot... But I cannot do less than the people themselves.

"But before we accuse Sam Rainsy or Ranariddh, now it is clear that neither

Sam Rainsy or Ranariddh are taking the lead... even now we are disappearing from

the demonstration [yet] it is still continuing.

"I have mixed feelings of admiration, gratitude, sadness, that we as leaders

cannot provide democracy and freedom for the people. So my sentiments are mixed."

The Prince said he believed that Hun Sen was also using violence as a signal of discipline

and strength to elements within the rank and file of his own party.

"I'm willing frankly to go to the National Assembly, to sit down, if I could

stop the killing. I'm willing to go now, alone. You do not have to pressure me. But

I would not be responding to the will of the people... [and] for what they have been

demonstrating."

Ranariddh reiterated he would not work with Hun Sen. "We would not be able to

implement what we have promised the people. Never, never and never. It would mean

a big failure for Funcinpec in 2003, a big defeat.

"Secondly, most important, we would be betraying the will of the people.

"I think more important than the reconciliation of the ballots, more important

than the formula... Samdech Hun Sen is now becoming the real core of the problem."

And that is not something that Mehrotra's plan, or ASEAN's plan, or the King's plan,

or the international community's plans could solve? "Exactly," Ranariddh

confirmed.

"I still believe, or at least hope, this can be solved from now, otherwise everything

will be out of control," he said. Cambodia would be like Burma, he said, "although

I hope not, for the sake of my country."

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