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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'

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Vol. 10, No 14
July 6-19, 2001

FOUR 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.

No official Funcinpec memorial was held for victims on the coup's July 5 anniversary, which Prince Sisowath Sirirath, Funcinpec co-minister of defence, 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 said.

In a June 27 interview Sirirath preferred to emphasise 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 adviser Om Yen Tieng summed up the CPP attitude to the coup as one of collective amnesia in the name of peaceful coexistence.

"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.

The 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 counterparts.

"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 suffering through criminal and civil legal action have been unsuccessful.

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