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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cambodia Prince Concedes Defeat

BANGKOK, Thailand -- After several battlefield setbacks, deposed co-premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh of Cambodia agreed Friday to call off armed resistance to the country's new strongman, an official of his party said.


The prince's capitulation in the face of the stronger military of coup leader Hun Sen could forestall a new round of civil war in a country wracked by turmoil for three decades.


Ranariddh, toppled in a bloody coup July 5, conceded defeat during a strategy session with exiled members of his royalist party ahead of talks with foreign ministers representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


Lu Laysreng, a steering committee member of Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC party, said the prince agreed to a proposal agreed to Thursday by the delegation and his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, who is undergoing medical treatment in China.


It requires an end to the prince's attempt to organize armed resistance to Hun Sen, with whom he served in a tension-wracked coalition that emerged from UN-sponsored elections in 1993.


A caretaker government including the parties of both men would be established to run Cambodia until fresh elections, currently set for May 23, the fifth anniversary of the UN-run vote intended to usher in a new era of peace and democracy.


Ranariddh, whom Hun Sen has threatened with arrest if he returns to Phnom Penh, would be authorized to nominate a member of his party to replace him as co-premier.


That would undercut Hun Sen's hand-picked replacement, Foreign Minister Ung Huot, a member of Ranariddh's party. Exiled royalists have called his appointment illegal.


"FUNCINPEC has accepted the proposal of a caretaker government,'' Lu Laysreng said. "This is the only solution that can finish the war. If any party does not agree, it will only prolong fighting and help revive the Khmer Rouge.''


Ranariddh later met the foreign ministers of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, who are representing ASEAN, and was to accept the proposals, Lu Laysreng said. Neither side was expected to make an official announcement.


The ASEAN team will put the same proposals before Hun Sen on Saturday.


Sam Rainsy, an opposition leader, said he supported the prince's move to stop fighting.


The prince was pushed into capitulation by the lightning offensive Hun Sen unleashed against his supporters.


The royalists were smashed in two days of pitched battles in the capital, Phnom Penh, then rapidly driven northward toward the border with Thailand by Hun Sen's forces.


Under the deal outlined by Lu Laysreng, Sihanouk, 74, who has suffered in recent years from cancer, strokes and cataracts, would technically have control over the military.


But the real power will rest in Hun Sen's hands. The bulk of the troops obey him, and he has also found allies among the former Khmer Rouge guerrillas Ranariddh viewed as allies.


There is no guarantee Hun Sen will accept the deal if it dilutes the absolute authority he is establishing.


"No foreigner can dictate to Hun Sen,'' Hun Sen told 2,000 people Friday at a Buddhist temple just outside Phnom Penh. "Leave us to solve our own problems.''