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Ranariddh: "KR will be very tough"

Ranariddh: "KR will be very tough"

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 [1979] 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 [1979] 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.

Yes, absolutely.

Post: The King's statement today mentions his pardon might have

been obtained too quickly, before two-thirds majority approval by the National Assembly.

Your reaction?

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

important role?

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...

Ranariddh: ...yes...

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 [1993] 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.


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