Prince Ranariddh Joins Sudden Summit

‘Progress’ Made; Rainsy Not Present

Funcinpec and the CPP on Thursday hurriedly convened a two-day summit at the Royal Palace under the auspices of the country’s ailing monarch, accomplishing the CPP’s wish for a two-party meeting.

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh sat down with CPP leaders Chea Sim and Hun Sen in an effort to make progress towards forming a government. Absent were representatives of the Sam Rainsy Party, which had taken part in previous talks.

By late Thursday, officials from the two participating parties said progress had been made, but were reluctant to release details.

CPP spokes­man Khieu Kan­harith said delegates had made “a bit of progress,” but that a party “as­sessment” would wait for today.

Mu Sochua, a Funcinpec steering committee member, also said movement towards an agreement was made.

“It was positive…a good beginning and ]talks] will continue [today],” Mu Sochua said Thurs­day night, shortly after discussions end at about 9:30 pm.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur re­ported Thursday night that specific agreements had been reached.

King Norodom Sihanouk met with summit participants about an hour after Prince Ranariddh arrived on an afternoon Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.

The meeting was convened after a flurry of communication Thursday between Chea Sim, the prince, the King and Sam Rainsy, who was in Paris on Thursday.

“As the two biggest parties of our nation, understand that I have never thought about my personal interest or the interests of the throne at all,” King Norodom Sihanouk told party leaders in the Royal Palace’s Khemarin Temple. “All I think about is the interests of our citizens, people and the motherland of Cambodia.

“So, to meet with Samdech Euv means that we are serving our people, citizens and the motherland of Cambodia and serving a pluralistic democracy conforming to the ideas and articles of the Constitution,” the 76-year-old monarch said.

He was joined in the room by five members of Funcinpec—Prince Ranariddh; the party’s secretary-general, Tol Lah; parliamentarians You Hockry and Pok Than; and aide Kong Vibol.

The CPP was represented by party President Chea Sim, Vice President Hun Sen, co-Minister of Cabinet Sok An and Hun Sen aide Prak Sokhonn. Kong Som Ol, the minister of the Royal Palace and a CPP standing committee member, also joined after greeting the prince at Po­chen­tong Airport.

The parties got the summit in just before the King’s deadline of Satur­day for his return to Bei­jing, making good on the mon­arch’s offer to me­diate be­tween the parties and surprising most political ob­servers.

Diplomats said the talks were a step in the right direction, and speculated the prince would not have re­turned without some indication the CPP would make concessions.

Funcinpec parliamentarian Ahmad Yahya said late Thursday that international pressure had brought the prince back, but insisted that despite Sam Rainsy’s absence, the opposition had not been split. Mu Sochua said Fun­cinpec is hopeful that a CPP tired of waiting will negotiate.

Thursday’s summit began at 5 pm and was scheduled to end at 11 pm, with a break for dinner.

Since late last month the CPP has been pushing for the two-party summit, saying they cannot make concessions without knowing what Funcinpec wants.

Chea Sim’s Cabinet chief, Oum Sarith, said Thursday that an exchange of ideas could break the deadlock. “For the key ministries, we want to keep them, but later we may soften our stance,” Oum Sarith said.

Funcinpec continues to de­mand the post of president of the National Assembly. It has lambasted as unconstitutional a CPP offer last month to form a legislative co-presidency. Funcinpec has dropped its demand that election irregularities be thoroughly investigated until after the Nation­al Assembly sits and forms the government.

The prince’s return was also a sudden turnaround to Funcin­pec’s cool responses to the CPP’s overtures, saying earlier this week that they needed more time to prepare for a meeting.

Sam Rainsy on Thursday wrote to the prince in support of the meeting, but it was unclear by mid-evening if Sam Rainsy would attempt to return for the second day of talks, scheduled for today.

Some Sam Rainsy supporters remain concerned that the outspoken government critic—previously fingered by government officials for instigating unrest with unlawful acts—might not be welcome back in Cambodia.

The CPP-dominated government this week released two statements guaranteeing the security and freedom of opposition parliamentarians, but not op­position members facing “prima facie” criminal charges.

The opposition had been insisting on a three-party summit abroad while the CPP wanted a two-party summit with Funcinpec in Phnom Penh.

(Add­i­­tion­al re­porting by Kimsan Chantara)

 

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