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Ranariddh meets diplomatic corp


      Ranariddh meets
      diplomatic corp

      IN his attempt to keep Cambodia in the
      spotlight, deposed Prime Minister Prince
      Norodom Ranariddh called a meeting on
      Wednesday with the diplomatic corp in
      Bangkok to reiterate his stance on the
      future of Cambodia. 

      The meeting drew representatives of 19
      embassies and the European Commission,
      but only a few ambassadors showed up. 

      In a proposed political platform for a
      coalition government from 1998-2000,
      Ranariddh said the new coalition needs to
      address basic issues to build confidence
      and create an atmosphere for pacification. 

      These measures are the safety of political
      opponents and activists, the elimination of
      local militia, illegal arms and explosives,
      reintegration of armed forces loyal to
      Ranariddh, protection of human rights,
      status of the opposition broadcast media,
      and restructuring of the Cambodia National
      Election Commission and Constitutional

      There is also a need to address corruption,
      poverty, immigration and the economic
      situation, he added. 

      The proposal was jointly signed by him and
      his opposition ally Sam Rainsy, and was
      sent earlier to Cambodian leader Hun Sen. 

      Speaking to reporters after the meeting,
      Ranariddh said he will return to Cambodia
      to discuss the formation of a coalition
      government only if he obtains a written
      guarantee of his safety and freedom from
      King Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen. 

      He reiterated that the new coalition must
      have only one prime minister and the
      national assembly one chairman and two
      deputies. Hun Sen, whose party won the
      May elections, demanded that the national
      assembly have a co-chairman. 

      Ranariddh, whose Funcinpec party came
      second, said he remains optimistic that the
      government would be formed before the
      Sixth Asean Summit scheduled for Dec 15
      and 16. 

      In Hanoi, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry
      spokesman Pham Thuy Thanh said
      Cambodia needs a coalition government
      before it can join the Association of South
      East Asian Nations (Asean). 

      ''We always wish to see Cambodia
      become the 10th member of Asean and the
      realisation of the 'Asean Ten' at an early
      date,'' Thanh told a briefing for foreign

      ''Other Asean members have shared this
      view and agreed in principle that
      Cambodia can join Asean after a new
      coalition is formed,'' Thanh said. She gave
      no more details. 

      But more than three months have gone
      since the general election in Cambodia -- in
      which none of the parties won enough seats
      to form a government alone -- and the
      country's rival parties have yet to agree on
      a coalition. 

      Cambodia's scheduled membership of
      Asean was initially blocked after premier
      Hun Sen ousted his co-premier, Prince
      Ranariddh, in a coup in July 1997. 

      Asean's nine members are Brunei,
      Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the
      Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and

      The Nation