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
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
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",
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
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
"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
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
"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."