Work Remains Despite Coalition Deal

As the dust settles after a two-day summit that dissolved more than three months of political deadlock, the parties still must resolve many gray areas of negotiation—a process that could take months, some observers say.

Three working groups await appointment by Funcinpec and the CPP to work out the details of separate agreements that em­erged from the summit Thursday and Fri­day chaired by King No­rodom Sihanouk.

“I think we both feel the ur­gency of the matter and are moving as quickly as we can,” Funcinpec spokesman Pok Than said Sunday.

Under the terms that emerged from the surprise two-day summit, Funcinpec will support a parliamentary vote of confidence for Hun Sen as prime minister, CPP President Chea Sim will preside over a soon-to-be created Senate and Funcinpec’s Prince Nor­o­dom Ranariddh will chair the Na­tional Assembly. The CPP also supported five amnes­ties for re­sistance generals and others ex­iled over the last five years.

The details of the agreements, some of which need to be hammered out before the National As­sembly can approve a government, include drafting a constitutional amendment to allow for a new upper house of parliament.

A two-thirds vote of the Nation­al As­sembly, scheduled to meet is needed to ratify the terms.

Riding on the government’s formation is membership in Asean, a seat at the UN and millions of dollars in in­ternational aid and loans—all lost or postponed after the July 1997 factional fighting that resulted in the collapsed  1993 coalition government.

“All in all, I think the objective is to join Asean,” an Asian diplomat said Sunday. “If they can manage to get Asean with them

…then the money will be there, the UN seat will be there.”

But analysts said over the weekend that signing the agreements does not necessarily en­sure a successful coalition government. “If each party sees this as a chance to weaken the other, it’s not going to work,” a Western diplomat said.

Analysts said that despite an ag­reement to outline a limited role for the proposed Senate, there is still likely to be considerable debate over its powers.

In addition to chairing the Sen­ate, originally proposed by the CPP, Chea Sim will remain acting head of state as he did as the Na­tional As­sembly president. Prince Ranariddh will head the National Assembly, though the CPP holds 64 of the Assem­bly’s 122 seats.

The prince, who left Saturday for four days in Bangkok, told re­por­ters at Poch­entong Airport that key posts in the planned Cab­inet already had been divided up. The two parties again will share the top positions in the defense and interior ministries, he said.

Senior Funcinpec leader You Hockry, co-Minister of Interior in 1993, said sharing the ministries would help build trust between the two parties.

Also, the Defense Ministry is charged with reintegrating up to se­v­eral thousand resistance troops, which it failed to do in four different negotiations this year.

So Khun, the CPP-appointed secretary of state for Posts and Tel­ecommunications, downplayed predictions that a government would be formed by the end of the month, saying January is more likely. “We’ve been stuck in one place for a long time now,” the Takeo parliamentarian said.

Whether the Sam Rainsy Party tries to join the government or go it alone as the opposition in parliament could affect negotiations. The party’s role in the King-ap­pointed Senate is also unclear.

Analysts over the weekend said they expect the Sam Rainsy Party to opt for the opposition. “He will not be in the government for sure, but I think he should be in both the Senate and the Na­tional Assembly in order to have any real voice in parliament,” said Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Co­operation and Peace.

Both parties said Sunday the smaller party still could join the coalition. “From our side, the door is still open,” said CPP Pres­ident Chea Sim’s Cab­inet chief, Oum Sarith. “If [Sam Rainsy] really wants to enter in the government then he must clearly confirm. If he doesn’t want to, he can stay in opposition.”

A Saturday statement from the Sam Rainsy Party didn’t say whe­ther the party will join the government.

Chhang Song, an adviser to Chea Sim and a Cabinet member from Lon Nol’s government be­fore 1975, expressed guarded opt­i­mism over the deal. “Everyone’s been so bad in the past, this should be an improvement.”

But political observers remain concerned that the parties will have difficulty working together.

“I’m not quite sure that the two parties really love each other, like each other, and need each other or not,” said Chhay Yiheang, dean of the Philosophy Faculty at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. “Sometimes we see things on the outside that are good but on the inside, they’re bad.”

A Western diplomat said Fun­cinpec would need an attitude change. “They have to play a cautious game. They have to speak on behalf of the government. And Hun Sen is the prime minister. It’s not going to be anybody else.”

(Ad­ditional re­porting by Kay Kim­song, The Associated Press and Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

 

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