Amid escalating tensions between the two rival parties in Cambodia’s ruling coalition, Japan and other aid-donor countries and organizations will hold a two-day meeting in Paris at the beginning of next month to discuss fresh economic assistance for Phnom Penh, government officials said June 19.
The second meeting of the “consultative group” of aid donors for Cambodia, which was inaugurated in Tokyo last summer, will be held in the French capital on July 1-2 under the sponsorship of the World Bank, the officials said, requesting that they not be named. The officials said the consultative group will also discuss political issues in Cambodia, including the escalating rivalry between the ruling parties led by the two joint premiers, at an informal meeting to be held on the fringes of the formal talks on economic assistance for the Southeast Asian country.
Late June 17, bodyguards loyal to First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and those loyal to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen engaged in a two-hour gunfight in Phnom Penh, leaving at least two dead and three wounded. The shootout has raised strong concerns over the country’s future among Japan and other aid donors, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will admit Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar next month, creating an “ASEAN 10” with a combined population of some 500 million.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will probably call on his counterparts from the Group of Seven major industrialized countries and Russia, meeting in Denver on June 20-22, to discuss the Cambodian situation, the officials said. The G-7 comprises the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is also expected to urge the Cambodian joint premiers to promote democracy and resolve their differences peacefully during her planned visit to Phnom Penh at the end of this month, although it is now uncertain whether she will go ahead with the trip as scheduled.
The officials said the two Cambodian premiers will not attend the forthcoming meeting of the consultative group of aid donors in Paris, although they were present at the group’s first meeting in Tokyo, when they put on a show of unity. Keat Chhon, Cambodian’s finance and economy minister, will head the country’s delegation to the Paris meeting, they said.
At the Tokyo meeting, 16 nations and five international organizations pledged a total of $500 million in economic aid for 1996 to help rebuild the country’s war-battered economy. Japan, Cambodia’s largest single aid donor, pledged up to 10 billion yen — or about $93 million at the currency exchange rate of the time — in grant-in-aid and technical cooperation.