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Ranariddh may lose his NA post

Ranariddh may lose his NA post

PRIME Minister Hun Sen will not allow Prince Norodom Ranariddh to retain his position

as President of the National Assembly in the new government, according to notes of

a meeting obtained by the Post.

The meeting was held at Hun Sen's Takhmau residence on July 4 and attended by several

senior CPP figures as well as the representatives of several dozen pro-CPP NGOs (see

story page 6). At the meeting Hun Sen talked about a range of election-related issues.

The Prime Minister told the meeting that if Funcinpec lost the election, Ranariddh

would be ousted from the post. He did not indicate who would take his place, but

there is speculation that the ruling party's honorary president, Heng Samrin, could

be in line for the job in the next government.

"If the CPP wins the election, Hun Sen will be Prime Minister and Ranariddh

will not be head of the Parliament, but simply an ordinary MP," the notes quote

the Prime Minister as saying.

"If the CPP wins, we will let Ranariddh resign ... Ranariddh can be removed

from the party because he has taken out members of his own party [so he too can be

removed]," the notes continued.

But Funcinpec's secretary-general, Prince Norodom Sirivudh, would not entertain speculation

about Ranariddh's future. He told the Post on July 31 that as there were no plans

for a coalition, it was premature to discuss positions within one.

The July 4 meeting notes provide a revealing glimpse into the coalition tensions.

At one point, Hun Sen endorsed the monarchy, but suggested the country follow the

Thai model. Unlike here, none of the Thai king's immediate family is politically

active.

"If we would like to give value to the monarchy, those descendants of the monarch

should not be involved in politics," he said.

And Hun Sen made no secret of his ire at Ranariddh's strident invective against both

him and the CPP in the lead-up to polling day.

One of the people who attended the July 4 meeting was NGO leader and long-time CPP

ally Chea Chamroeun. He explained that there were two reasons why Ranariddh would

lose his position: one, because he had overstepped the boundaries in his criticisms

of Hun Sen; two, because he had not respected the coalition agreement.

One well-placed political analyst consulted by the Post said the move to undermine

Ranariddh would likely be welcomed within the royalist party as a way of solving

its own leadership issues. He added that it would also make the party's founder,

King Norodom Sihanouk, "very happy".

He felt it was likely that either Samrin or current Senate President and CPP Chairman

Chea Sim would replace the Prince in the National Assembly. If Chea Sim got the job,

he said, Samrin would likely take the deputy slot with a co-deputy position offered

to a member of the CPP's new coalition partner, which would still likely be Funcinpec.

"The Prince would move to the Senate presidency and it would be made clear to

him that his political life was over," he surmised. "He could keep his

luxurious life and be prepared to become the next King, but he would be told it is

time to keep quiet."

Under Ranariddh's leadership, Funcinpec has suffered a further slump in support.

Figures available at press time from the National Election Committee (NEC) show the

royalists have lost more than 10 percent of their voters since 1998, and dropped

17 seats.

The party slipped to number two in 1998 after winning the UNTAC monitored election

in 1993. The NEC's figures suggest that it attracted fewer votes than the opposition

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), pushing it into the number three position by vote count.

The Prince's leadership was further compromised last year when members pushing to

oust the unpopular co-Minister of Interior, You Hokry, failed in their bid to replace

him with Khan Savoeun. Ranariddh proved unable-and according to the notes of the

Hun Sen meeting, unwilling-to remove Hokry.

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