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Cambodia: Major News Items, 4/8/96 - 4/14/96

Sihanouk Calls For Release Of Captives
On April 12 King Sihanouk released a statement in which he asked nominal Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan to secure the release of British demining expert Christopher Howes and interpreter Houn Hourth. The two were abducted in Siem Reap province on March 26. Some sources have reported that the two are were kidnapped by Khmer Rouge guerrillas, while other sources say that the men are being held for ransom by Khmer Rouge defectors. The Khmer Rouge have denied involvement in the incident. (Reuter, April 12.)

Cambodia Praises Australia For Land Mine Ban
Australia's decision to ban its military from using anti-personnel mines drew praise from Cambodian Information Minister Ieng Mouly. "We welcome the decision of Australia... we welcome any initiative to ban landmines." Mouly hopes that legislation to ban the weapons will be introduced in Cambodia's parliament later this year. (Reuter, April 15.)

Hun Sen Alleges Assassination Plot
In a speech broadcast on state radio on April 8, co-Premier Hun Sen claimed that there is a new plot to kill him. "The last attempt to kill me failed and now there is another attempt, but it's no problem... I will step on the neck (of the plotters) if the assassination fails." Hun Sen did not identify who is behind the "plot." Last November, Cambodian authorities arrested Prince Norodom Sirivudh, the King's half brother, alleging that Sirivudh was planning to kill Hun Sen. Many observers believe the November allegations were politically motivated. Prince Sirivudh ultimately left Cambodia for exile in France following intervention by the King. (Reuter, April 9.)

Sihanouk To Visit France
In what will be his first official state visit outside Asia since resuming his reign as Cambodia's monarch in 1993, King Sihanouk will travel to France between April 22 and April 24. It is likely that Sihanouk will undergo some medical examinations during the trip. He is reported to be recovering from a bout with cancer, but has said that he has circulatory problems and a lesion on the brain. Meanwhile, Sihanouk stated in Phnom Penh last week that if a majority of Cambodians wanted it, "...the monarchy will step aside... I will abdicate." Sihanouk has said that he would be happy to see his son, Norodom Ranariddh, succeed him, but Ranariddh has stated that he does not wish to become King. (Reuter, April 12, April 10.)

North Korean Ambassador To Be Replaced
The Cambodian Foreign Ministy reported that the North Korean Ambassador to Cambodia would be replaced some time next week. The replacement comes on the heels of an incident in which a suspected Japanese terrorist was believed to have been sheltered at the North Korean Embassy. The Ambassador was withdrawn by North Korea, and not at the request of Cambodian authorities. (FWN/UPI, April 11.)

Sixteen Killed By Tainted Wine
At least 16 people in Phnom Penh died in the past two weeks after drinking rice wine which had apparently been laced with insecticide. It is believed that the insecticide was added in an attempt to increase the alcohol content of the wine. The victims are thought to have been unaware that the wine had been tainted. (Reuter, April 12.)

Logging Continues Despite Ban
According to an evironmental group, timber companies operating primarily in territories held by the Khmer Rouge are still cutting timber despite a 1995 ban on the export of newly cut trees. The group, Global Witness, also revealed last week agreements between Cambodia and Thailand authorizing the export of some 1.1 million cubic meters of previously cut wood from Cambodia, in apparent violation of the ban. Prime Minister Ranariddh defended the agreement, arguing that the wood could not be moved back into Cambodia, and the export of the wood was preferable to letting it rot. (UPI, April 10.)

Cambodia and Vietnam Agree On Procedure For Border Disputes
During a brief meeting with Vietnamese Premier Vo Van Kiet, Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh worked out an accord under which border disputes between the two nations would be settled in bilateral negotiations. The talks would involve local authorities in minor incidents, and would only involve high-level officials in the case of more serious disputes. The goal of the new procedure is to enable quiet diplomacy to address the issues, eliminating the need for charges and counter-charges in the media. In January, Ranariddh had accused the Vietnamese of moving border markers hundreds of meters deeper into Cambodia. (Reuter, April 10.)

Rainsy Fundraiser Sells Out In Long Beach
An estimated 500 people paid $50 each to attend a Cambodian New Year celebration, held aboard the Queen Mary, during which Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy made a dramatic appeal asking Cambodians to support his political struggle in Cambodia. Rainsy served as Finance Minister for the government before being ousted last year, after he accused officals of human rights abuses and corruption. Rainsy formed his own party, the Khmer Nation Party, in November, but the government promptly outlawed the group. Rainsy then merged his party with the Liberal Reconciliation Party to take advantage of that group's legality. The government has not yet said whether or not it will recognize the newly-reformed KNP. (Sophie Yarborough, Long Beach Press Telegram, April 15.)


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