Two envoys, one from the UN and another from the Asean “troika,” arrived Tuesday to assess the political climate in Cambodia leading up to the elections.
Francesc Vendrell, director of the Asia and Pacific Division of the UN Political Department, arrived on the same flight as Philippine Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Lauro Baja, although they came on separate missions.
Vendrell said the UN will make a final decision by the end of the month on granting election aid to Cambodia. If assistance is offered, he said, the UN will help coordinate international observers.
“I would think there is a chance of a significant international presence coordinated by the UN,” Vendrell said. “It may not be necessarily a UN presence…which is what the two prime ministers have requested.”
Both Vendrell and Baja attended a meeting late last week in Manila of the Asean troika—composed of the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand—and the Friends of Cambodia, a grouping that includes the US, the European Union and Japan.
The groups released a statement calling for an end to human rights abuses and for the return for deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who was effectively ousted after the July 5-6 fighting.
Although the decision to grant aid has not yet been reached, Vendrell said he had no specific agenda for his three-day visit.
“I was at the Friends of Cambodia meeting in Manila and I thought it was only natural to drop by and take the temperature and to listen to as many people as possible,” Vendrell said.
The UN is not a member of the Friends of Cambodia, but Vendrell repeated the group’s call of last week for the prince’s return.
“One of the major issues is the return of Prince Ranariddh to Cambodia in a situation [where] he can play a full part in the electoral process and the elections,” Vendrell said.
Baja echoed concerns for the prince’s return and said it was among the topics to be discussed with First Prime Minister Ung Huot at their scheduled meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Neither envoy was scheduled to meet with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is mourning the death of his mother.
Baja, who is scheduled to leave Cambodia today, said he was here to brief Ung Huot on the Manila meeting and to check on the progress of election preparations as well as the declared cease-fire.
He said he was not aware until Tuesday morning that fighting was continuing in the northwest between resistance forces and RCAF troops. “When I left Manila, the belief was that the cease-fire was holding.”
Military spokesmen said Monday that fighting resumed over the weekend, after the Friends of Cambodia meeting adjourned.
Baja acknowledged that a proposed international team of cease-fire monitors was not discussed at last week’s meeting.
“[There has been] no progress toward independent monitors for the cease-fire,” he said. Baja added that amnesty for resistance generals—a sticking point in the cease-fire agreement—was also not discussed.
Troika foreign ministers may travel to Beijing to talk to King Norodom Sihanouk about a royal pardon for Prince Ranariddh, Baja said.
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