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Wednesday, May 27, 1998 Published at 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK


Cambodia's Ranariddh in rare public appearance
image: [ A rare public appearance for Prince Ranariddh ]
A rare public appearance for Prince Ranariddh

BBC Correspondent Caroline Gluck reports from Cambodia on a rare appearance by the country's deposed first prime minister Prince Ranariddh, at a new headquarters for his Royalist Party in Kandal Province, where his rival and former coalition partner, Hun Sen, is standing as an election candidate:

This was a rare public appearance for the Prince since his return to Cambodia. Addressing party workers, he was candid about mistakes made in the past.

He admitted that his FUNCINPEC party had not kept promises made to supporters during the last elections five years ago, saying they gave him the verdict to run the country but that verdict was only half-fulfilled since he was forced into a power-sharing arrangement with his rival, Hun Sen.

The Prince also said that FUNCINPEC had neglected many of its grass-roots supporters and promised that would not happen again.

He urged his followers to register as voters for the forthcoming elections and report any intimidation.

He echoed complaints by senior party officials that many of their supporters trying to register had been turned away while ethnic Vietnamese without Cambodian identity cards had been allowed to register - however, the Prince believed that these complaints were now being addressed by the National Election Committee.

The Prince said there was still a long way to go before the elections could be regarded as free and fair, citing the failure of the government to investigate the political killings of his supporters since July, continuing intimidation of party members, political bias in key judicial and electoral bodies and the opposition's lack of access to the media.

But he denied his party was a spent force and said it would boycott the polls only if the United Nations decided it could not endorse them.

"FUNCINPEC has not been transformed into ashes," he said; "its grass-roots support is still very strong and the foundation is solid."

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