The Dealing Fields

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BANGKOK: Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh agreed today to end his armed resistance to Hun Sen, the nation's new strongman who ousted Ranariddh in a bloody coup July 5. Under the deal, reached by members of Ranariddh's royalist party and foreign ministers representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an economic bloc comprising several regional countries, military operations will cease and a caretaker government will be formed comprising the prince's party and Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party until elections next year. The deal also gives King Norodom Sihanouk, Ranariddh's father, authority over the armed forces and calls for both sides to accept the terms of the Paris peace accords which ended decades of fighting and set the stage for elections in 1993. While Ranariddh has accepted the deal, it is very likely Hun Sen will not, considering it significantly weakens the absolute authority he is establishing in Cambodia. But while Hun Sen may stand firm, ASEAN, which gave Cambodia the boot last week in protests of his violent coup, will likely make him an offer he may find difficult to refuse: accept the deal or remain isolated from the bloc, a threat sure to resonate in a country as poor as Cambodia.