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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chakrapong-led Secession Collapses

Chakrapong-led Secession Collapses

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

situation.

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

process.

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)

leaves.

"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

province.

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

turn away.

"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

said.

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

Rieng said.

"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

were denied.

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

his uniform.

"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

said.

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.

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