PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
PROTESTS erupted yesterday against United Nations forces in Cambodia amid signs of spreading secessionism within the government. This poses new obstacles to a UN-crafted peace plan already near collapse because of the failure to disarm and demobilize combatants.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, meanwhile, said the government of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) would refuse to give up power unless the UN satisfies its demands for an investigation of alleged irregularities and fraud in the recent election. The royalist opposition party - known by its French acronym FUNCINPEC and led by Prince Norodom Rannaridh, son of Prince Norodom Sihanouk - won the most seats in the new 120-member assembly.
Yasushi Akashi, UN special representative in Cambodia, has rejected the appeal for a special investigation, and said any irregularities that occurred would not have affected the outcome. He declared the election free and fair.
The standoff between the UN force that monitored the May 23-28 balloting and the Hun Sen government, which is dissolving into discord following the election, highlights the seemingly intractable problems that stand in the way of creating democracy in Cambodia after decades of war and authoritarian rule.
The political struggles also have raised concerns of a breakdown in security that could leave the country vulnerable to increased attacks by the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, who withdrew from the peace process and boycotted the elections.
At a meeting of the Supreme National Council, a body of representatives of all competing parties intended to guide the country until a new government can be formed, former monarch Prince Sihanouk said he has been told two renegade government officials were planning to establish an autonomous zone in the eastern Cambodian province of Prey Veng.
The two officials were identified as National Security Minister Sin Song and Prince Norodom Chakrapong, Sihanouk's other son and deputy prime minister under Hun Sen.
Hun Sen also told the council there were signs of insurrection among government security forces that could lead to secessionist moves in the central provinces of Kompong Cham and Kompong Thom. He said large supplies of weapons were flowing into those provinces, which are heavily influenced by the Khmer Rouge.
In the country's most populous province of Kompong Cham, about 600 people including government soldiers and police held an anti-UN protest yesterday, an observer said. He said the crowd attacked the FUNCINPEC office. FUNCINPEC finished first in balloting in Kompong Cham, a particularly wounding defeat for Hun Sen in his home province. Forcing out opposition
Members of the crowd tore down signs and demanded that UN personnel, FUNCINPEC members, and members of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party leave the province, the observer said.
UN spokesman Eric Falt said UN vehicles were prevented from taking a ferry across a river to get into Kompong Cham.
A letter signed by provincial government and military officials in Kompong Cham reflected increased uneasiness there. The letter demanded the removal of UN forces and said the province would only respect the authority of Sihanouk or the CPP. Among those signing the letter were Hun Neng, governor of the province and Hun Sen's brother, and the regional Army chief, Ngek Hourn.
About 300 people in the southeastern province of Svay Rieng also held an anti-UN demonstration yesterday, Mr. Falt said.
Rannaridh appealed for Cambodians to respect the outcome of the election and sharply criticized the reported secessionist moves by Sin Song and Chakrapong, his half-brother and bitter enemy. "It is absolutely against the will of the people," Rannaridh said.
Rannaridh said he hoped his father, Sihanouk, would continue to play an intermediary role to try to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. Prince still leader
Sihanouk, rebuffed last week in attempts to form a coalition government bringing together the CPP and FUNCINPEC under his leadership, remained adamant in public that he would not try again to put together another joint administration.
But he is still negotiating in private among the factions and is likely to emerge as leader of an interim administration that will ensure him a similar role after the new assembly writes a constitution and forms a government.
Mr. Akashi said the ruling party's refusal to accept the results of the country's first multiparty elections in 21 years was not surprising because of the party's bitter political loss.
Akashi expressed confidence that the problems can be worked out by forming an interim government to ensure a peaceful transition of power, but stressed that acceptance of the election results by the ruling party was vital to building democracy in Cambodia under the UN peace plan.
"We can help Cambodia to the extent that Cambodians help themselves make peace among each other and accept the democratic rules, however painful they may be," he said.
Final results released yesterday showed that FUNCINPEC won 45.4 percent of the vote, compared with 38.2 percent for the ruling party.