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Ranariddh says Samphan welcome

Ranariddh says Samphan welcome

F IRST Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh said he would not object to Khieu Samphan's

Khmer National Solidarity Party joining the fold of the National United Front (NUF),

but denied being in any direct negotiations with the nominal Khmer Rouge leader.

"For the time being I don't have any direct or indirect contact with Khieu Samphan...but

if he really wants his party to join the National United Front, in my capacity as

president I don't have any choice but to simply say yes," said Ranariddh speaking

to reporters May 23.

By stressing that no formal steps could be initiated without King Sihanouk's approval,

Ranariddh also hinted at the possibility of a royal amnesty for Khieu Samphan.

"It's up to Khieu Samphan to set up his party, and amnesty has to be provided

to him by His Majesty the King, " said Ranariddh.

A few observers maintain that a political alliance between the NUF and Khieu Samphan

is not unlikely.

"Rapprochement of NUF and the hardliners could be made one day no doubt, if

it serves their political objectives," said one observer.

In a May 19 speech, Ranariddh said that he had been informed of Khieu Samphan's intention

to form a new political party which would exclude Khmer Rouge leaders Pol Pot, Ta

Mok and Son Sen.

In a subsequent KR radio broadcast on May 21, Khieu Samphan pledged his Khmer National

Solidarity Party's support for the NUF.

"We support the NUF and [its]14 principles. If we apply the 14 principles we

will win," said Khieu Samphan in the broadcast.

First unveiled at the NUF official launch in late February, the 14-point platform

outlines the alliance's strong nationalist stance on issues such as territorial integrity,

illegal immigration and official corruption - concerns which have long been at the

core of KR rhetoric.

Despite Ranariddh's denial of being in contact with KR hardliners, confusion remains

as to when and how the Prime Minister first heard about Khieu Samphan's pledge of

support for the Funcinpec-led NUF.

Ranariddh's cabinet first maintained that the Prime Minister had initially heard

about Khieu Samphan's intention in a KR radio broadcast, but later maintained that

the Prince had read a report in a Khmer language newspaper - but could not recall

which.

Observers speculate that communication channels between Funcinpec and Anlong Veng

remain open.

"It is not at all unlikely that Ranariddh and Khieu Samphan are talking, perhaps

through someone in Surin," says one observer referring to the province in northeast

Thailand which was home to resistance forces throughout the 1980s.

Observers also remain unclear as to whether the Khmer National Solidarity Party is

a newly-created entity or a party that has been mentioned by KR radio in the past.

"This is the third time that KR radio proclaims the formation of a new political

party since 1992," warned one observer. "But there is no way that Khieu

Samphan is speaking for himself; he speaks for Pol Pot and whatever he says is the

official line."

While Anlong Veng has previously voiced support for the NUF's 14-point platform,

the May 21 announcement was Khieu Samphan's first pledge of the Khmer National Solidarity

Party' support for the alliance.

The move has left some observers speculating as to whether Khieu Samphan may be seeking

a formal agreement with the alliance.

But the timing of Khieu Samphan's declaration has raised some eyebrows.

"It is like adding oil to the fire," maintained one observer, adding that

the move may be aimed at creating more tensions and suspicion between Funcinpec and

CPP.

The prospect of such an alliance has already elicited responses from outside the

NUF.

In a May 19 speech in Takeo, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen warned against allowing

the hardliners a way into politics.

"We must prevent the returning of the genocidal regime by political means through...a

political alliance...which could endanger the country," Rasmei Kampuchea quoted

Hun Sen as saying.

The Democratic National Union Movement (DNUM) of former KR also responded cautiously

to Ranariddh's announcement.

"Khieu Samphan's party is Pol Pot's party," Pailin governor Ee Chhien told

reporters in Phnom Penh May 26.

"If the party is set up and joins the National United Front, there will be political

tension."

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