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New Cambodian Premier Asks Rebels to Give Up Land

September 26, 1993| From Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — In his first act as prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh asked Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan on Saturday to hand over the territory his guerrilla group controls.

Ranariddh said his first priority as leader of Cambodia is to resolve the conflict with the Khmer Rouge. The Communist guerrilla group controls about 20% of the country with a core group of 10,000 fighters who regularly skirmish with government soldiers.

"Now the Khmer Rouge have to return and live like the others," Ranariddh said.

Ranariddh's father, King Norodom Sihanouk, assumed the throne Friday for the second time. He was first crowned king in 1941 but abdicated in 1955 to rule as a political leader until he was forced from power in a 1970 coup.

Sihanouk then appointed his son prime minister in recognition of his party's triumph in U.N.-organized elections this past May.

The guerrilla group has said it supports a return to the monarchy and has agreed to attend peace talks with Sihanouk in Phnom Penh in November. It is widely hoped that Sihanouk can use his longstanding ties with the group to rein them in.

Sihanouk was an ally of the Khmer Rouge from 1970-75, when they both sought to topple the U.S.-backed regime that had ousted him.

When the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975-78, they kept Sihanouk under house arrest. During that time, more than 1 million people died in Khmer Rouge executions, famine and civil unrest.

Ranariddh called on Khieu Samphan to come to the capital before Wednesday--when the 70-year-old king is to leave for medical treatment in China--and relinquish the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin.

"If the Khmer Rouge is sincere, they have to offer Pailin back to the king," Ranariddh said. "What the king wants to do with Pailin is up to him."

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