Svay Rieng City-In an apparently short-lived takeover of seven eastern provinces,
State of Cambodia Deputy Prime Minister Prince Norodom Chakrapong declared on June
12 the formation of an autonomous zone under his administration after alleging the
U.N.-run constituent election had been riddled with irregularities. But three days
later SOC Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a message to United Nations Special Representative
Yasushi Akashi that "no single province under the control of the SOC administrative
structure has become an autnomous zone." As of press time, the secessionist
threat appeared to have receded amid reports that Chakrapong had fled to Vietnam.
The gravity of the situation was hard to determine. While some analysts dismissed
the call for secession as a political ploy, increasingly violent rhetoric and attacks
against UNTAC and FUNCINPEC staff in the breakaway provinces portended a more serious
Chakrapong, who had departed Phnom Penh on June 10 when the United Nations announced
the official election results, appointed himself as the head of the "Samdech
Euv Autonomous Zone" zone and named General Bou Thang and SOC National Security
Minister General Sin Song as his deputies. The area, roughly translated in English
as the King Father Autonomous Zone, included all seven provinces bordering Vietnam
-Stung Treng, Kratie, Rattanakiri, Mondulkiri, Kompong Cham, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng.
Meanwhile, SOC Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to distance himself from the secession
movement, saying the Phnom Penh government would continue to participate in the peace
Chakrapong's declaration of autonomy came two days after Kompong Cham Governor Hun
Neng, Hun Sen's older brother, issued a letter in which he rejected the election
results and called for a Sihanouk-led interim government to hold another election
in his territory after UNTAC (the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia)
"We highly respect Their Excellencies Chea Sim and Hun Sen, but we can not abide
by their decision made under the pressure of UNTAC," the letter said. Signaling
the onset of a 'war of ownership', he demanded that all U.N. officials leave the
The self-declared government assumed control of the armed forces and police. Lacking
a capital, Chakrapong had said he would oversee the zone from his helicopter.
Chakrapong had rejected the election results as "suicide" for the country
when he spoke before a crowd of 1,000 in Svey Rieng provincial town on June 12, and
insisted that a reconciliation role be provided for Sihanouk.
"Let Samdech Euv resolve Cambodian problems without any interference from foreigners.
If it is reasonable, they should leave," he said in a thinly veiled threat against
UNTAC officials in the area.
A banner at the rally read: "We categorically denounce UNTAC's election results
announced on June 10."
On the day of the rally, Chakrapong's supporters gathered in the compound of the
provincial governor's house, which was manned by police and soldiers equipped with
machine guns and supported by tanks. A military man dressed in plain clothes leveled
his pistol at three foreign journalists on their way to the rally, forcing them to
"I came to support the rally to show my protest at the unjust election organized
by UNTAC," said 37-year-old Sek Yann, a local resident.
Just prior to the June 12 rally Chakrapong had issued a letter ordering the closure
of the Mekong River ferry that provides access to Svay Rieng province and denied
all U.N. officials entry to the province. U.N. aircraft were also forbidden to fly
over or land in the territory of the new administration.
These orders appeared to have been taken seriously by the peacekeepers and not a
single U.N. vehicle was sighted by reporters on the roads in Svay Rieng that day.
The offices of rival political parties were also shut down.
The secessionists increasingly showed their willingness to resort to force. At the
entrance to the provincial district, a five-meter-long bamboo barrier beam was placed
across the road and cars were searched by heavily armed police and military personnel.
A taxi-driver told the Post that the day before a BLDP (Buddhist Liberal Democratic
Party) vehicle had been stopped and the party members arrested.
On June 12 two Soviet-made jeeps with soldiers carrying B-40 rocket launchers and
AK-47s on board made regular passes in front of the UNTAC civilian police provincial
headquarters as unarmed U.N. personnel looked on.
The day before, an angry crowd had surrounded and hurled rocks at the headquarters,
causing damage to the building and cars. Some items were also stolen, Civpol officers
In the wake of the attack, security at the building was reinforced by a military
unit from the Indian battalion. In the meantime it has become a temporary shelter
for U.N. officials who were forced to evacuate outlying offices after they were stormed
and plundered by local police and villagers.
On the same day a U.N. helicopter was blocked from landing by 16 local trucks occupying
the air field and gunfire was heard from the ground, the Civpol officers in Svay
"Yesterday my interpreter found an anonymous letter. It threatened to shoot
us if we don't leave the province on the 14th," said one Ghanaian Civpol officer.
He said 24 U.N. vehicles had been damaged as angry mobs smashed wind-shields and
headlights in various districts. All attempts to restore contact with the local authorities
A Tunisian Civpol officer who had come in from in Chantrea district said armed police
and villagers had run amok in his house as he was leaving. The looters even demanded
"They took everything - TV, radio, furniture, everything. As we don't carry
weapons, we're ready to give them everything, including our clothes," he said.
When he departed the June 10 Supreme National Council meeting, Hun Sen had blamed
UNTAC for not listening to his early complaints and warned of the possibility of
bloodshed and secession.
"UNTAC is the one who divided the Cambodian people at this moment," he
Prince Sihanouk, the titular head of the Supreme National Council, called the situation
"a tragedy for all of us, if the country falls apart.
"This is a very Third World situation. I'm so sorry," the prince said.