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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen moves as KR talks completed

Hun Sen moves as KR talks completed

A MIXTURE of factors triggered Hun Sen's offensive, most notably the expected conclusion

of Funcinpec negotiations with the Anlong Veng Khmer Rouge, according to diplomats

and other analysts.

The bottom line, say observers, is that Hun Sen believed he would have to fight sooner

or later, and assessed that it was better to do it now rather than closer to the

national elections.

CPP sources said Hun Sen considered, by late last week, that he had no choice but

to take action.

"The intention was clear. It had to be done immediately, within a few days.

There were intelligence reports of the stockpiling of weapons [by Funcinpec] and

continuing movement of troops to Phnom Penh," one party official said.

Some sources cite a Funcinpec-Khmer Rouge meeting last Friday, the day before the

CPP launched its Phnom Penh attack, as a key factor in Hun Sen's timing.

According to a Cambodian source close to the KR, a deal was agreed upon between Funcinpec

and Anlong Veng at the meeting.

Long Sarin, of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok and a key Funcinpec negotiator, was

seen crossing the Cambodian-Thai border at O'Smach on Friday, escorted by Thai military

intelligence officers. He met KR nominal leader Khieu Samphan at an undisclosed location

on Cambodian soil east of the border checkpoint, sources say.

The meeting resolved that the KR would publicly announce their recognition of Cambodia's

Constitution and the dismantling of their provisional government. An official "defection"

ceremony was planned, but the KR were assured that their military and political structure

could remain intact under the auspices of Samphan's National Solidarity Party.

Hun Sen was aware of the meeting and its expected outcome, sources say.

Funcinpec's willingness to get closer to the KR - boosting the political and military

forces arrayed against CPP as an opposition bloc - added to Hun Sen's fears that

an election victory was by no means guaranteed for him, observers and officials say.

Neutralizing the opposition National United Front established by Funcinpec leader

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, by force if necessary, was critical to his confidence in

going to a ballot.

"Hun Sen wants to go into the election with the certainty of a landslide...

He wants to use democracy as his way to return to dictatorship," a senior CPP

source predicted several weeks ago.

"If he has taken such a risk [to attack Funcinpec], it is really because he

was not sure of himself," said one diplomat this week. "He was not so sure

that he would win the elections."

A further motivation for Hun Sen's timing, the diplomat suggested, was his mounting

concern over the direction of inquiries into the lethal Mar 30 grenade attack on

the Khmer Nation Party. The Washington Post reported June 29 that the Federal Bureau

of Investigation, which sent agents to Phnom Penh to look into the attack, tentatively

blamed personal bodyguards of Hun Sen for the attack.

While CPP was clearly well-prepared for its offensive, it is unclear whether Ranariddh

and Funcinpec had any clear indication that it would happen.

The first sign of major trouble came last Thursday, when CPP forces at a road block

attempted to disarm members of Ranariddh's motorcade, while the Prime Minister himself

was returning by helicopter, near Oudong, north of Phnom Penh. Earlier, Funcinpec

and CPP forces had clashed at a naval base near the area.

The next day, Ranariddh hurriedly left the country. "It is a very good solution,"

one senior Funcinpec military official privately said that day. "The Prince

- he doesn't want to fight. Now we have no commander-in-chief, we will respond if

CPP continues to provoke us."

The next day, Saturday, CPP began raiding the military bases and homes of key Funcinpec

commanders. Within 48 hours, the final showdown - and Funcinpec's fighting spirit

- was over.

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