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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 1997 coup now 'a bad dream'

1997 coup now 'a bad dream'



our years after military units loyal to Hun Sen's CPP routed Funcinpec forces

and prompted a bloody purge that resulted in the torture and murder of around

100 Funcinpec party faithful, both victor and vanquished appear keen to forget

the coup ever occurred.

A CPP armoured personnel carrier on the move in Phnom Penh on July 5, 1997.

No official Funcinpec memorial was held for

victims on the coup's July 5 anniversary, which Prince Sisowath Sirirath,

Funcinpec Co-Minister of Defense, recalls as "a bad dream".

Asked on

July 3 about the victims of the violence that devastated Funcinpec militarily

and sidelined the party politically, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, President of

Funcinpec and the National Assembly, was brief in his response.

"I am not

only pained to think about it, but I am thankful for their sacrifice," he


In a June 27 interview Sirirath preferred to emphasize the gains in

internal and political stability that followed the 1997 fighting and stressed

the strictly non-confrontational nature of post-coup Funcinpec.

"We are

here to help," he said. "We are here as a democratic political force; a

protector of human rights."

Hun Sen advisor Om Yen Tieng summed up the

CPP attitude to the coup as one of collective amnesia in the name of peaceful


"We forgot everything, such as the verdict of the court

case [of treason charges against Prince Ranariddh, later pardoned] and we

tolerate each other [in the interests of] peace," Yen Tieng said.


only official ceremony to remember victims was held by the Sam Rainsy Party


Speaking at the July 5 Bangsokol Buddhist ceremony at SRP

headquarters in Phnom Penh, Kong Korm, Acting SRP President, was far less

diplomatic in his assessment of events four years ago than his CPP and Funcinpec


"Today we commemorate victims of the killings of July

[which were] not different from [those of] the Khmer Rouge regime," Korm said.

"The Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge in Pailin joined

forces to topple then-First Prime Minister Ranariddh and other parties [to]

continue in power."

Attempts by victims and victims' relatives to seek

compensation for their sufferings through criminal and civil legal action have

been unsuccessful.

An SRP lawyer who spoke to the Post on July 3 blamed

CPP bias within the courts and CPP pressure from outside the judicial system for

blocking justice for the victims.



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