First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh spoke to Matthew Grainger
on Sept 17 on the Khmer Rouge and politics.
Post: How do you believe either Funcinpec or CPP, as separate political parties,
have changed, getting stronger as a result of the Ieng Sary split?
Ranariddh: No, no. I have to say that [General] Nhek Bun Chhay has worked
on this defection for several weeks if not months. But the fact is that Samdech Hun
Sen came out so suddenly with respect to Ieng Sary's defection. But since then Samdech
Hun Sen and I - and I do not say parties - and the co-Ministers of Defense, and Nhek
Bun Chhay and Pol Saroeun are working all together to make this move possible. Personally
I contributed to the lead to bring down the demands coming from Ieng Sary. You will
remember that Ieng Sary was talking about tripartite meetings, about equal footing
in the liberated zone and so on. And I told Samdech Hun Sen that we need national
reconciliation but that national reconciliation has to be done in a clear framework
within the Kingdom, which is the Constitution and the legal institutions of the country.
Now we are still aware that Ieng Sary accepts that everything must be done in that
clear and legal framework. But it was the amnesty coming from the King, and now today
there's a meeting for the first time between the two sides on many issues including
how the Khmer Rouge units could be integrated into the RCAF, and about territorial
problems. It's clear that neither party, neither Funcinpec nor CPP, alone and would
alone take advantage from Ieng Sary. On the contrary, it is in our interests to work
together. As I told Samdech Hun Sen: 'How Samdech could we talk with Ieng Sary when
we are not completely united?' But still have differences... how could we move to
the Khmer Rouge in the process of reconciliation when we are not reconciled completely
among ourselves? Now the situation between the two parties and the two Prime Ministers
is better. So I think that neither Funcinpec nor CPP should or would take advantage
from the deal. We do not have any interest, otherwise we would weaken ourselves.
But Funcinpec feels very comfortable because we used to be in the resistance with
the Khmer Rouge! We share a common view, in particular we were in resistance against
Vietnam. At the time I was personally very articulate on the territorial issues and
so on, therefore I feel very comfortable with the Khmer Rouge in general.
Post: Do you believe that Ieng Sary still may have to answer
to any crimes he committed between 1975 to 79, or do you believe he will always be
safe from prosecution while he remains in Cambodia?
Ranariddh: I think you have to say that if you read the Royal decree carefully,
it is clearly stated the amnesty is about two things. One, the condemnation [of Sary]
by the  people's tribunal of the former State of Cambodia, the death penalty;
and second about the law passed by the National Assembly to outlaw the Khmer Rouge.
And that's the amnesty. But the amnesty is [only] applied to these two cases. It
is clearly stated in Article 1 of the Royal amnesty. It does not prevent any international
tribunal to organize any trial to judge Mr Pol Pot and to cite Mr Ieng Sary also...
yes, it is up to the tribunal in question. I think that is clearly to do with the
sentence of the  people's tribunal and the second is about the bill to outlaw
the Khmer Rouge. It is clear. But what happens in the future. I think that the amnesty
will not prevent Mr Ieng Sary or Pol Pot, in particular Pol Pot, being prosecuted.
And Mr Ieng Sary, if I listen to him carefully during his press conferences, very
clearly that he has evidence that he was not responsible but Pol Pot was responsible.
In this case I think that the amnesty would not protect Mr Ieng Sary from prosecution
by the international tribunal of course, we don't yet know.
Post: We've not heard of any reaction yet from Ieng Sary. Do
you believe that Sary will accept the amnesty as it is given, even though he knows
maybe in the future something could still happen to him from an international tribunal?
Ranariddh: No, I do not have any reaction from him. What I have from him
is a letter of gratitude, sent to me and Samdech Hun Sen, saying he is innocent.
So he did not mention about this, but what I'm told, it is simply my thinking that
it's very logical. What I said is that it's not a political approach. In response
to your last question it is a legal approach, otherwise we cannot understand the
meaning of amnesty.
Post: But is this as far as the Royal Government is prepared
to go? You cannot guarantee Ieng Sary be free from anything that happens in the future?
Ranariddh: How could I? How could the Royal Government, legally speaking,
we cannot. Definitely. As many people or even leaders of this country are accountable
not only to the people but they are accountable if they commit a crime before justice.
Post: The King's statement today mentions his pardon might have
been obtained too quickly, before two-thirds majority approval by the National Assembly.
Ranariddh: I think that Samdech Hun Sen came out too quickly. Because the
King had shown his willingness to achieve national reconciliation among his children,
as he has always asked for. When he got the request from the two Prime Ministers
in written form he showed his willingness to sign. But he said I need you to present
to me individual support or approval coming from the Members of Parliament. And you,
as the President of Funcinpec and Vice President of CPP, you should get personal
commitment, support from the Members of Parliament. It means personal reaction. It
could be support, approval or protest, or disapproval. And the King was very prudent,
he said I don't want emotion with signatures. If you have emotion and just have to
put down your signatures it could be interpreted as pressure coming from both leaders
of the party toward the MPs. He said personal reaction; personal letters of approval
or of protest. The King said I have the right according to the law to give amnesty,
in conformity with the law, but I need an umbrella. That umbrella must come from
at least two thirds of the members of the National Assembly. So I was very disappointed
to hear this afternoon through the Royal cable that Samdech Hun Sen already told
the press about the amnesty given out. Yes! I was very disappointed.
Post: Because the two thirds had not been...
Ranariddh: Not been. It's too early. I refused to answer any phone call
from BBC or anyone else but I think we moved very fast. The fact is there is no harm,
we forget that a two thirds majority is [no problem]. It's a question of a day -
not days - but of a day.
Ranariddh asked his military advisor General Tum Sambol how many Funcinpec members
had signed their intention to amnesty to date.
We have 48, already approved and support the King, and some letters even ask the
King to pardon Ieng Sary. Some said we approve the decision, others asked please
give your pardon to Ieng Sary if you haven't done so yet. So 48 out of 58, including
mine, that's two thirds or more already - actually out of 57, because Sdech Krom
Khun Sirivudh, he is still a Member of Parliament. Don't forget it! You know Sdech
Krom Khun, he always supports any move to national reconciliation. He was very strongly
against the law to outlaw the Khmer Rouge. Maybe we should have asked Prince Sirivudh
to send a letter to the King. And what happened to the CPP, I don't know?
Tum Sambol mentions a conversation he had that afternoon with CPP senior minister
Sok An, about how the CPP was going collecting their votes. He did not know how many
they had gathered.
I'd like to call attention to the fact that I'm the first one to have mention that
this should be debated among the Members of Parliament. I don't mention two thirds
majority or not, but I said the matter was important and that the National Assembly
should debate on this issue.
Post: So it's a question of Samdech Hun Sen being too quick,
and that in 24 hours you would have had everything?
Ranariddh: That's right. It should be like this, like we have promised
the King. The King showed his goodwill, a good move, and I'm of the opinion that
the King, not the two Prime Ministers, should wave the flag of national reconciliation
like he has for years. In his speech, Ieng Sary at the same time says the King rules
as the Father of the Nation. I think we should be more patient and I cannot understand
very well why we are so rushed into this.
Post: You mention Prince Sirivudh. There's talk that one of the
things you're now in a position to do is to ask Hun Sen about Sirivudh's amnesty.
Ranariddh: Yes, in this matter I've always been very clear in what I've
said. One, we need a written letter from Prince Sirivudh to ask the King in particular
and the two Prime Ministers for amnesty. Second, I think that at a time when the
King has accepted Mr Ieng Sary... Ieng Sary you can believe or not believe what he
says about the past. But as far as Sdech Krom Khun is concerned he did not kill anybody.
He was condemned on the illegal detention of arms, and he got ten years for the illegal
detention of arms. I'm quite sure in many houses in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh in particular,
you will find a lot of illegal detention of arms. It's a question of justice and
fairness that amnesty be given to Sdech Krom Sirivudh. Sirivudh still continues to
refuse to be a member of any political party except Funcinpec. As I told you the
National Assembly has voted, and he is still a member of the Assembly. So the case
of Prince Sirivudh is less complicated than that of Mr Ieng Sary.
Post: People are still trying to understand whether it was Funcinpec
or CPP which first went to negotiate with Ieng Sary, and whether Funcinpec or CPP
is negotiating more closely than the other now.
Ranariddh: I can say about So Pheap and Mr Y Chhien we, General Nhek Bun
Chhay, were the first, but as far as Ieng Sary was concerned I was not aware that
General Nhek Bun Chhay was in touch with Ieng Sary. It appears that Ieng Sary came
out in a very surprising manner. As far as So Pheap and Y Chhien were concerned,
General Nhek Bun Chhay, from Cambodia and from Thailand, approached them. General
Pol Saroeun was aware about it when So Pheap tried to get in touch with [KR defector]
Keo Pong, So Pheap had to go through Pol Saroeun. You know, So Pheap asked Nhek Bun
Chhay how to reach to Keo Pong, and Bun Chhay said please talk to General Pol Saroeun.
But Ieng Sary came out in rather surprising manner. It appears So Pheap and Y Chhien
wanted to have political leadership.
Post: The Thai - specifically General Chavalit's - involvement
seems very prominent. Is that your understanding, that General Chavalit played an
Ranariddh: Yes. I have to say that it is true that Thai authorities got
involved in this matter. Without Thai involvement nothing would be done properly.
Second, it appears that General Chavalit tried to bring Mr Ieng Sary, So Pheap and
Chhien to Samdech Hun Sen and Tea Banh alone. But, in the final stage, we say that
the other side - the Khmer Rouge - said it cannot be real national reconciliation
if we don't contact with both sides of the Government. Therefore they postpone, for
health reasons, the meeting planned between Ieng Sary and Tea Banh alone. They postponed
it three times for medical reasons. But when we said it would be a meeting between
Mr Ieng Sary, his colleagues and the two co-Ministers of Defense, not only did he
accept but the meeting took place, on the 5th. And the third thing I have to say
is that it is not very sure that the Thais could tell the Khmer Rouge what they had
to do. The Thais are influential but not as influential as they think. And the Khmer
Rouge are like this... we have to be very careful with the Khmer Rouge. I know the
Khmer Rouge very well.
Post: It would be in Thai interests to get trade moving again?
The Thais seemed very good in closing the border...
Ranariddh: You know the Thai could close down the border. But are the Thais
really interested in closing down the border? I don't think so. The Khmer Rouge know
that very well. The reason why the Khmer Rouge are not very... obedient to the Thais,
they know the common interest about the cross border trade, including gem stones.
You have to go to Pailin, according to Nhek Bun Chhay and Minister Ek Sereywath,
and it's really amazing to see all the equipment brought by the Thai miners to Pailin.
But the Khmer Rogue they are very different, they are poor, they are not poor, they
are rich and so on, they are very independent even vis-a-vis China! I know that very
well, many times. The Khmer Rouge were very independent vis-a-vis China, very independent
vis-a-vis Vietnam. During the fight against the Americans they got a lot of support
from Viet Cong, but from 1977 they start killing all the Vietnamese and killed their
own people who they think are related to or are pro-Vietnamese. They are very independent
vis-a-vis the Thais too. We have to learn this lesson. The Khmer Rouge will be very
tough. I don't believe that Ieng Sary is as corrupt as Mr Pol Pot claims. And so
to get Ieng Sary in, get the Khmer Rouge in we have to be very cautious. Most personally
I feel quite confident, I know then they are killers; they kill our people, two million
of them. But, one thing, they are very tough, vis-a-vis our eastern neighbor [Vietnam].
Very tough. Very tough. So maybe I get my supporters in! [He laughs]. I was the only
one to talk about the border issues, the ethnic Vietnamese issues. Yes. No-one support
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, not at all, but maybe the country will take
advantage at least on this particular issue. At least. And talking even about corruption,
yes, they're very tough. They may be corrupt themselves but they don't want anyone
else to be corrupt.
Post: About the current negotiations with the Khmer Rouge. There's
talk about integrating fighters and territorial matters. I there anything that the
Khmer Rouge might say 'No, we don't want that'?
Ranariddh: No, they know already what we have asked for, without which
we cannot move. The only one remaining question is about the amnesty to be given
to Mr Ieng Sary. It was the only one serious question left. But we have to check
with Nhek Bun Chhay tomorrow about any information about [today's] meeting.
Post: So as far as you're concerned, about territory, about integration
of their fighters, now amnesty. All that you have asked of the Khmer Rouge, and all
they have asked from you, has been agreed?
Ranariddh: You know, without involving the territorial question, and integration
of Khmer Rouge army, we could not move toward the amnesty issue. The Khmer Rouge
who split from Pol Pot were very clear about these points you have raised. I'd like
to remind you I was the one who spelled it out very clearly that we cannot accept
Ieng Sary without resolving these very important issues which was territorial issues.
It was very clear.
Post: Were there any slight differences that CPP wanted apart
from Funcinpec, or at that stage of talking were you and Hun Sen completely in agreement
as to how you should approach the Khmer Rouge.
Ranariddh: No. I must say I don't have any difficulty with my party to
move toward a solution. In the beginning I had very clearly expressed my position
on Ieng Sary. But I cannot tell you, because it is not to my knowledge, whether Samdech
Hun Sen gets full support from his party, I do not know. Why? Because if you simply
read the final statement read by Samdech Chea Sim in the closing session of the CPP
plenium, it was very anti-Khmer Rouge. It was anti-Funcinpec, but very anti-Khmer
Rouge. Of course you can say that the Ieng Sary issue is about national reconciliation,
but intellectually speaking there should be some debate. But since I met with Samdech
Hun Sen to deal with this question, we [are] working with each other quite well.
Post: Have you had pressure from Western countries who may have
questioned how it is possible that you can pardon this man?
Ranariddh: You know we have not had any pressure from the Western countries.
The United States of America have expressed their view on Ieng Sary to us. The State
Department said it is an internal affair of Cambodia, but it doesn't stop them from
expressing their view on the Ieng Sary issue. Australia is the same. Now their position
is the following, that they cannot believe that Mr Ieng Sary is innocent but the
Ieng Sary issue is an internal affair of Cambodia; if you solve the Ieng Sary issue
[it would] provide stability, peace, security and in turn sustainable development,
OK, alright. The US expressed its view but no pressure at all. The rest of Western
society have expressed on the contrary their understanding in saying that the issue
effects your internal rights.
Post: And Asean would be similar?
Ranariddh: No. Asean is all right. No problem. It's the rule of Asean not
to interfere with internal affairs, and Asean doesn't want any member of Asean to
get involved of the internal affairs of another member.
Post: Have Funcinpec and Nhek Bun Chhay been talking to Son Sen?
Ranariddh: No, no, no. Because he fled away. It was a question whether
Nhek Bun Chhay would talk to Mr Son Sen but the latter fled away after this. We are
not able to get in touch with Mr Son Sen.
Post: Sam Rainsy has had a lot of problems setting up a political
party. Now Hun Sen says that the Khmer Rouge could come to start a political party.
What is the problem with Sam Rainsy?
Ranariddh: I think that we have to know whether the Khmer Rouge want to
form a political party. If they want to do so, they have to abide by the law that
will be passed by the National Assembly about the setting up of a political party.
And if Sam Rainsy so desired he could take advantage from the law, and from the fact
that even if the Khmer Rouge had no difficulty to set up a political party, we can
provide to Mr Sam Rainsy a most favorable course... I think that it's the same as
Prince Sirivudh, as far as Mr Sam Rainsy is concerned, without official permission
coming from the Royal Government, we have seen local offices of the KNP, without
any serious threat.
Post: There is much talk about an August 6 meeting with CPP;
there is talk by diplomats around Phnom Penh about a CPP strategy upsetting the 1998
elections. Is this your understanding as well, that people are talking about this
Ranariddh: I was just simply aware about it. I do not have any clear evidence.
I have to say that if it would be the case, I feel very sorry for a political party
as important as the CPP not to have a more serious strategy than that they spelled
out in the August 6 meeting. I would expect a better strategy. 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. I think that the big parties have to raise before the Cambodian
nation vital issues and let the people of Cambodia judge not only the past but they
can judge how this or that party will resolve these vital issues of the country,
one; secondly, I have to say that when we went to see His Majesty the King last Saturday
[14 Sept] Samdech Hun Sen told the King that from now on, he swore before the Throne
and the King, that there would be no difficulties, no differences between the two
Prime Ministers and the two parties. And the King applauded, and he said: "OK,
it is in the interests of you and of the Nation that you can work all together."
Post: So Samdech Hun Sen...
Ranariddh: Hun Sen..!
Post: ... said before the King...
Post: ... that there would be no difficulties...
Ranariddh: ... that there will be no difficulties, it will be on the contrary
cooperation and so on. Even for the election the King said OK, you have to work toward
the elections and the elections cannot be allowed to harm the unity and cooperation
between the two parties. Even the King said you should not allow Mr Sam Rainsy to
become the Mr Saddam Hussein, because Saddam Hussein is a weak man but he can divide
the Europeans and Americans in launching an attack on Iraq... My father said please,
don't allow Sam Rainsy to be Saddam. He said it was because of your differences that
you weaken vis-a-vis our neighbors, vis-a-vis Sam Rainsy, he has succeeded because
you are divided. Therefore I, the King, always applaud all the moves toward real
national reconciliation, in particular real cooperation between the two Prime Ministers,
because in the long run the country will benefit from it. He said as King I cannot
interfere among the government nor the party but as Father of the Nation I applaud
all moves to national reconciliation, and if one day Sam Rainsy's party wants to
build toward national reconciliation, why not? Between Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy,
if you analyze the situation, there are no differences. Even I talk about territorial
issues more further than Mr Sam Rainsy himself. So therefore I can't see any serious
difficulties that we cannot be all together. We have to analyze all the issues like
peace, in the final stage it will be a very big national reconciliation. It does
not prevent Cambodia having a political system of pluralism, but we should not talk
in the same manner, otherwise it will be monolithic, it's not good for democracy
in Cambodia. You can have four, five parties and call it pluralism, but if they talk
the same you don't have pluralism.
Post: When [the Post] heard about the CPP [pre-election] strategy,
it seemed like a real worry. But now you believe that maybe Hun Sen would not agree
to a strategy like that, and maybe it's true when he talks to the King...
Ranariddh: The big issue now is the Khmer Rouge issue. What happened to
the strategy that we have heard from the August 6 meeting [and the] propaganda coming
from the CPP would be based on these things, you know, that a vote for Funcinpec
is a vote for the Khmer Rouge, if you don't vote for the CPP the Khmer Rouge will
return, because [CPP] are the architects of the defeat of the Khmer Rouge. Now I
don't believe if that strategy continues to be workable or not. Therefore I feel
personally more and more comfortable; very comfortable... You know, please, do you
remember when Samdech Hun Sen said Funcinpec is outside. The US press, Le Monde,
they all report like this. But the fact that since the beginning, our approach to
these problems has simply been different. The Khmer Rouge defections have succeeded.
With the military defections, the questions is about the families. How to solve military
defections, the families come first. We've kept very quiet on this issue. Secondly,
I'm very cautious, because any question has to be put in a clear framework, a legal
framework. Like amnesty, otherwise we can't deal with Ieng Sary.
Post: How do you think history will judge you and Hun Sen?
Ranariddh: History? No. I think Samdech Hun Sen has been Prime Minister,
has been running the country for the last 15 years. I have only been here less than
three years. It's too early to raise such a question. But what I would like my people
to remember is that I try my best to bring back to the country some kind of democracy,
liberalism and pluralism, and in some respects human rights, without forgetting what
happened during the Khmer Rouge time. The Royal Government and myself have succeeded
in resolving the Khmer Rouge problem, one of the most important issues remaining
to be solved. Otherwise we can't talk about real sustainable development of the country.
I'm not interested in anything else other than eradicating the poverty of the people.
We didn't do so badly in three years but there are many things remaining to be done.
I think this is the one challenge for all of us. It doesn't interest me to say I've
built 600 schools like Samdech Hun Sen says, but how to [develop] this country to
be at least a useful member of Asean, even that's not an easy task.
Post: Has Funcinpec got enough money to fight an effective election in 1998?
Ranariddh: We won the  election with less than $200,000. And the
CPP spent $20 million! If I have to base a victory for Funcinpec on money it would
be a mistake, on the other hand you tell me how I can get money? It's difficult.
Don't tell me we can fell logs. It's difficult. I can't build so many schools like
Samdech Hun Sen. I can't do. Funcinpec is very limited. I hope the achievement of
the Royal Government [reflects] the best to the people. No-one said - not even my
father said - that Funcinpec would win [in 1993]. The situation in 1996 and 1998,
after that in 1993, is simply different. So I can't talk about money because we don't
have a lot. That's the truth.
Post: So Funcinpec cannot take any advantage from the Khmer Rouge?
Ranariddh: No, Funcinpec can't take advantage. How can I do that? We move
on because it is a clear advantage to the Cambodian nation. We spend too much money
on arms and military. There are many handicapped people begging for money, without
having any dignity as human beings. We cannot dedicate a lot of money to infrastructure,
to schools, roads, to medical centers etc. We spent too much money [on the military],
we are talking about military reform. How can we get into serious military reform
without ending the war? How can we stop illegal arms trading, corruption, drug trafficking,
security? Therefore we must solve the Khmer Rouge problem, it is much more important.
Mr Ieng Sary himself, security, development, one can't go without the other. This
is very very important to me. The real advantage Funcinpec will take is not what
happens to the CPP, or to the KR people, but how we are seen by the Nation in order
to bring peace, stability and international development. You know, if I was CPP I
would be worried - Samdech Hun Sen, Samdech Chea Sim - vis-a-vis the Khmer Rouge.
To the [KR] they are traitors. They not only betrayed the Khmer Rouge, and Pol Pot,
but they went to Vietnam and followed the Vietnamese. They didn't fight the Vietnamese
but followed the Vietnamese, asked the Vietnamese to come to Cambodia to colonize
our country. I said it in a very impassionate manner, I led the resistance following
the path of His Majesty the King my father, but Samdech Hun Sen and the CPP went
to Vietnam and asked the Vietnamese to colonize, and chase Pol Pot and Ieng Sary
and all away from Cambodia. I think in the framework of the CPP maybe they have some
people who are thinking of these very facts.