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Cambodian Political Deadlock Continues - 2004-06-15


In Cambodia, the latest talks on forming a coalition government have broken down again. Cambodia remains without a functioning government 11-months after fiercely contested national elections. Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party rejected a proposal from the royalist FUNCINPEC party to evenly divide government posts.

The C.P.P. wants to split power 60-40 with its political rival.

The deadlock in negotiations comes nearly two weeks after the two parties announced they had resolved their outstanding differences and would quickly move to create a governing coalition.

The latest breakdown in talks indefinitely delays plans for a coalition government. FUNCINPEC leader Prince Ranariddh says he will consider starting a new round of negotiations later this month. Milton Osborne, a visiting fellow at Australian National University in Canberra, says the current prime minister has little to gain from a coalition government and shows little inclination to alter the status quo.

"There are a number of plusses for him in the current situation," he says. "He made quite clear that he doesn't really mind governing without a government having been formed because effectively he has his hands on the real levers of power, he's already said once he'll be happy governing until 2008 without a government being formed."

Cambodia has been mired in political deadlock since last July's elections. Hun Sen's party won the most votes but failed to capture a majority to govern independently. Initial talks on forming a coalition stumbled when Hun Sen insisted he remain prime minister over objections from FUNCINPEC's Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, the leader of the other major opposition party.

The 11-month stalemate has kept Cambodia out of the World Trade Organization and prevented its national assembly from convening for more than a year. The deadlock has also stalled UN-backed genocide trials for the Khmer Rouge, which led a communist government believed responsible for the deaths of more than one million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

Mr. Osborne says the threat of a public tribunal may be one more reason Hun Sen and his allies in the C.P.P. are reluctant to share power. "As long as the government is not formed and the parliament can't meet, the issue of a Khmer rouge trial is put off," he says. "And he and many of his close associates are concerned privately that if a genuinely independent tribunal is formed it could lead to the raking over of the coals of their involvement as former members of the Khmer rouge."

Hun Sen was a commander for 18 months with the Khmer Rouge but has never been implicated in any atrocities.

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