Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday once again warned his one-time rivals and present party officials not to refer to the bloody factional clashes that took place in Phnom Penh over July 5-6, 1997, and left the Cambodian People’s Party with a stranglehold on power, as a coup.
Speaking to police officials at the Police Academy School in Kandal province’s Kean Svay district, the premier addressed audience members Serey Kosal, Ly Thuch and Keang Vang, who at the time were senior military officials in royalist party Funcinpec.
The three defected to the CPP after the 2008 elections.
“Do not accuse me of leading a coup,” said Hun Sen, adding that officials had to be careful of their comments because of the video evidence that CPP troops had taken at the time.
In 1997, troops loyal to then Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who led Funcinpec, engaged in a fierce street battle in Phnom Penh.
CPP troops emerged the victor, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh went into exile in France.
The Hun Sen-led CPP has won every subsequent election.
Deputy prime minister and secretary general of Funcinpec Nhek Bunchhay could not be reached for comment.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the SRP considers the events of 1997 a coup led by CPP.