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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Disaffected abandon F'pec ship as captain cries rally

Disaffected abandon F'pec ship as captain cries rally

HUNDREDS of Funcinpec officials met in Phnom Penh last week to discuss strategy,

as signs of disunity surfaced with the defections of some Funcinpec-affiliated police

officers to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

Party representatives from the provinces, government ministries and armed forces

attended the Aug 2 meeting.

Funcinpec leader and First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh urged party solidarity,

honesty and effective planning for commune and national elections, according to party

officials.

Party Secretary-General Loy Sim Chheang described the gathering as routine, but political

observers attributed greater importance to it.

The meeting came amid continued outspokenness by Ranariddh and his CPP co-Prime Minister

Hun Sen - who claimed a recent assassination plot against him - and signs of mounting

tension within the Cambodian armed forces.

It also followed the defections of about 200 Ministry of Interior personnel affiliated

to Funcinpec or the former Khmer People's National Liberation (KPNLF) to the CPP.

Well-informed sources said of the defectors, some of whom held ranks as high as general,

about 170 were Funcinpec members and 30 KPNLF.

"The figure only accounts for those who are serving within the ministry alone.

Probably, there are [defectors] in provinces that we don't know about," said

one source, who demanded anonymity.

Another said the defections began more than a month ago when some officers "volunteered"

to apply for CPP membership.

"No ceremony was held. They simply gave in their photos and membership cards

were handed to them a few days later," he said.

Reasons for the defections are unclear, but sources suggested the people - all on

the ministry payroll, though some yet to be appointed to permanent positions - hoped

to achieve a more "secure future" with the CPP.

Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Ho Sok, also Secretary of State for Interior,

denied there had been any defections but acknowledged that party solidarity was an

issue of "100 percent" importance.

Asked if some members may have left Funcinpec because they had been unable to secure

the government positions they wanted, he said some appointments had been refused

by the CPP.

There are five central departments of the Ministry of Interior, two headed by CPP-affiliated

generals, two by Funcinpec generals and one by a Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party

(BLDP) officer.

However, Ho Sok complained that of the 21 bureaus under the central departments,

only three were headed by Funcinpec generals, which was "very unbalanced."

"What Funcinpec and the people wished for has not been achieved. We will make

efforts to overcome this obstacle," he said.

Ly Thuch, chief of Ranariddh's cabinet, said he did not know of any defections but

if anyone had left the party to try to get a better government job, it would not

work.

He said both Funcinpec and CPP, as government coalition partners, had to approve

new appointments, so "running from one place to another will not help."

Son Soubert, president of one faction of the divided BLDP party - the successor to

the KPNLF - said he knew of "opportunists" who had gone over to CPP to

"curry favor". He would not give their names.

Other sources noted that if Funcinpec identified defectors, it would likely try to

have them sacked.

However, CPP is sure to try to resist such moves, in line with a strategy which was

discussed at the party's national plenum in June.

Both Hun Sen and CPP president Chea Sim, during plenum speeches, stressed at length

the need to encourage defections from Funcinpec and protect all defectors.

Hun Sen has also repeatedly claimed publicly that a number of Funcinpec officials

would join CPP if Ranariddh carries out his threat - made at a Funcinpec congress

in March - to withdraw from the government.

Meanwhile, there are continued signs of distrust between the various former political

factions now combined within the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

CPP officials, especially Hun Sen, have for months privately alleged that Funcinpec

is preparing military forces in case of a fight with CPP.

Hun Sen last met with Fun-cinpec's top general, Nhek Bun Chhay, in a visit last month

to Siem Reap. Sources say Hun Sen told Bun Chhay to tell Ranariddh to disband "secret

forces" loyal to Funcinpec in the province.

RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan (CPP) was present at the meeting, according

to one source who said CPP believed that the Funcinpec forces included Khmer Rouge

defectors in the province.

Funcinpec and the former KPNLF, along with the Khmer Rouge, were former allies who

fought Hun Sen's regime in the 1980s.

Siem Reap has been one site of alleged intimidation against Funcinpec members in

recent months.

Ranariddh, speaking to reporters Aug 1 on his return from a trip to Malaysia, said:

"We have not yet had the election [due in 1998] and yet there is already the

use of violence...illegal and cruel. What will we do when we go to vote?"

He urged co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hockry to take action against

anyone committing political intimidation, but did not directly accuse CPP of involvement.

Funcinpec officials have complained of violence and harassment including the ripping

down of party signs in several provinces. Loy Sim Chheang last week made a point

of saying he blamed individual disputes - rather than a concerted campaign against

Funcinpec - for the incidents.

In an unrelated matter, Hun Sen said late last month that security forces had foiled

a bid to murder him in Kompong Thom. In a speech in the province, broadcast on radio,

he said a man with an artillery shell had been arrested a few days earlier.

The Second Prime Minister, who has cited a number of alleged plots on his life in

the past year, said the man had confessed to planning to kill him. Hun Sen did not

identify the man.

In other speeches in recent days, both Prime Ministers have delivered strong words.

Ranariddh, in a visit to Svay Rieng, repeated complaints that Vietnam had recently

stolen land from Cambodia - an allegation sharply rejected by Hanoi as "groundless

and inconsistent with reality."

Hun Sen, meanwhile, in one speech last week, denied any CPP blame for the current

political situation.

Without naming Ranariddh or Funcinpec, he said that CPP had been "sitting peacefully"

when "somebody came and threw three kicks at us and both sides were judged with

equal punishment - that's not fair."

"Don't hold blood in your mouth and spray it on the others," he said, referring

to a Khmer idiom. "The [blood] which has been sprayed since March until now

is quite enough. Stop it, it's enough."

Ranariddh, meanwhile, reiterated his desire to work with Hun Sen but noted that the

pair were not "kissing each other" very much these days.

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