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Royalists keen on closer ties with communist Vietnam

Royalists keen on closer ties with communist Vietnam

F uncinpec is keen on establishing ties with the Communist Party of Vietnam,

according to Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who said it would help ease tensions

between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Prince Sirivudh - president of the

Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace and also Secretary-General of the

Royalist Funcinpec party - last month visited Hanoi at the invitation of

Vietnam's Institute of International Relations.

Prince Sirivudh said he

had received a warm welcome from Communist Party of Vietnam officials during his

trip.

"I think it is very important that Funcinpec has had the first

informal contact with the leaders of Communist Party [of Vietnam]," said Prince

Sirivudh.

"Funcinpec views that we don't regard Vietnam as our opponent

forever, but our neighbor with close ties. We should have discussion, close ties

so to protect our interests and to resolve a number of remaining issues," he

added.

He said good relations between the two countries was particularly

important as they sought to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

(ASEAN).

Historically, Funcinpec has been an opponent of Vietnam. The

party joined the resistance movement, along with the non-communist KPNLF and

Khmer Rouge, to fight the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in the

1980s.

After the 1993 UN-sponsored elections, Funcinpec emerged as the

highest-polling party in the current coalition, which is frequently accused by

the Khmer Rouge of being a puppet of the Vietnamese.

"I'm sorry for the

Khmer Rouge, they can accuse me as they want, but we must speak of good

relations between ruling parties," Prince Sirivudh said of his Vietnam

trip.

"As a ruling party, we Funcinpec would like to normalize our

relations with all ruling parties in neighboring countries."

Border

disputes and the presence of ethnic minorities in both countries remain

contentious issues between Cambodia and Vietnam, as does illegal cross-border

trade.

Prince Sirivudh said the use of weapons to solve remaining

disputes was not in line with King Norodom Sihanouk's promotion of peaceful

settlements to national and international disputes.

The prince described

his visit to Vietnam as the turning of a new page in the two countries'

relationship, and he praised Vietnam's moves toward a liberal market

economy.

Vietnam, which is expected to become an ASEAN member in July,

had initiated a number of economic measures which Cambodia could follow, he

said. For instance, it had established research institutes to promote foreign

investment in the country.

"This is a kind of new idea the [Cambodian

Institute for Cooperation and Peace] would like to recommend to our

government... in terms of attracting investment."

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