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Cambodian Political Parties Plan Meeting in Attempt to Resolve Deadlock - 2003-12-03

In an attempt to goad Cambodia's political parties to form a government, King Norodom Sihanouk has arranged for talks later this week. But recent statements by the monarch show he fears the deadlock will not end soon.

Cambodia's three main political parties are to meet Thursday and Saturday to try resolving the political deadlock. On Wednesday, however, the country's revered King Norodom Sihanouk issued a statement on his Web site that Cambodian voters deserve more respect from high-ranking politicians and he cannot understand why no government has been formed.

He says that during the coming talks party representatives will be able to freely express their views. But he adds that he does not understand why negotiations are needed since the country has had democracy for 10 years.

The king also says he cannot decipher the ulterior motives of the politicians. Lately, the aging king has appeared quite agitated about Cambodia's political deadlock. He recently said he "feared the country would descend into turmoil and unmasked dictatorship."

King Sihanouk is not the only one who has grown impatient. Chea Vannath, with the Center for Social Development in Phnom Penh, says she thinks most Cambodian politicians are not thinking about the needs of the country. She says it is likely the deadlock will spill over into 2004.

"We're wasting a lot of time looking at politics rather than joining forces, joining energy to build the country, to provide well-being to the people," she said.

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won the national elections in July, but failed to gain enough seats in the National Assembly to set up a new government. It has been unable to agree with the royalist Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party on terms for a coalition. As a result, the government has achieved little in the past few months.

The situation, however, is not as dire as it was after elections in 1993 and 1998, when King Sihanouk brokered agreements to end more violent crises. After the 1998 election, at least 26 people died in protests in the capital.