Phnom Penh's military court has obtained copies of faxes on Sam Rainsy Party letterhead
which say that the SRP deputy president Kong Korm ordered the rocket attack against
Prime Minister Hun Sen October 1998.
Korm has dismissed the documents as crude forgeries pointing out that the handwriting
did not match and the signature was not even close to his own.
He said a military court investigating judge had interviewed him and had given him
copies of the faxes.
He said that the judge appeared to be embarrassed and unenthusiastic about the investigation
and had told him that he had been ordered to investigate the matter. He said the
judge was unhappy to be involved in such a political case.
The two faxes, dated September 22, 1998, ordered Sok Yoeun and a co-conspirator Kong
Bun Heang to proceed with the rocket-grenade attack on Hun Sen.
The final sentence in one of the letters reads, "Please carefully check all
the equipment to make sure it will work during the operation." An instruction
that was apparently ignored given only one of the four rockets actually fired.
Korm said he is unsure of what will happen next, but the case is still open and there
is a possibility he could be charged.
Officials at the Military Court refused to discuss the case
Korm said he was not too worried as he has become hardened to intimidation and will
simply wait to see what the Government does next.
It is not the first time that supposed SRP documents have been forwarded to the authorities
as proof of serious crimes.
Last October, letters were published which allegedly showed that the SRP was co-operating
with the Free Vietnam Movement to retake Kampuchea Krom. Those letters were shown
to be forgeries.
Sam Rainsy, speaking from Chiang Mai, said the military court investigation "was
part of a larger scheme to silence the opposition."
Rainsy also blamed the murder of SRP activist Chim Chhuon in Kampong Cham, as part
of the intimidation campaign. However there has been no independent confirmation
that that killing was political.
"They want to frighten me," said Rainsy, "so I do not come back to
Cambodia. Some in opposition are in prison, some are in exile, some are killed, so
in this way they will end opposition."
The military court investigation is the latest in what has been a tumultuous time
for Rainsy and his Party.
On Jan 19 the ruling CPP and its junior coalition partner Funcinpec blasted Rainsy
on radio and television for remarks he made during his January 1 new year's address
to the Cambodian people.
The CPP and Funcinpec accused Rainsy of insulting the King and destabilizing Cambodia.
Calls followed for Rainsy to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity and face charges
A move Rainsy said he was unconcerned about.
"No, I'm not afraid of suspension from the National Assembly. If I'm accused
of treason, or sedition, I think it will be a very backward move.
"I was expelled from the assembly once, in 1995, so if I'm expelled again it
means Cambodia is really a 'banana kingdom,' a fake republic, a fake democracy. So
if they want the world to have confirmation of this, then expel me.
"I think my speech can encourage people to think about the real meaning of religion,
about the real meaning of monarchy and this kind of stirring of people's ideas makes
the ruling party very afraid," Rainsy said
But in recent months there have also been stirrings within the leadership of the
Sam Rainsy Party. Rumors hinted that Rainsy would face a serious challenge to his
presidency of the SRP prior to the party congress held February 12 and 13 in Phnom
Although Rainsy emerged from the congress with his leadership intact, the meeting
was not without incident. Some 100 disaffected SRP members from Kampong Cham and
Kampong Thom provinces protested outside the party headquarters on the opening day
of the congress.
One of the protest leaders was former SRP member Ros Hean, expelled from the party
ranks last year. Rainsy said Hean was a former Funcinpec member who had been expelled
from that party just prior to the 1997 coup.
"He attacked Funcinpec and Funcinpec expelled him. And then he came to our party
and we found that he creates problems everywhere he goes, so we expelled him.
"It's not the first time that the party faces some people trying to cause problems
with the help of the CPP," said Rainsy.
A possibly more sinister attack on the SRP happened on the night of Feb 10 when an
SRP activist, Chim Chhuon, was gunned down on his property at Toul Bey village in
Kompong Cham, just before he was scheduled to travel to Phnom Penh to attend the
Despite statements from Chhuon's wife saying the murder was the result of a dispute
with a neighbor over water rights, Rainsy insists the killing was politically motivated.
Rainsy said he had made his own investigation and the alleged killer, Sou Tean, was
a militiaman whose brother was Toul Bey's headman.
"As a militiaman, he received instructions from the commune head as a part of
the chain of command of the CPP," said Rainsy, "This is definitely a political
Rainsy said he and the SRP are also coming under attack on the public relations front.
The Ministry of Information announced, on February 16, that two opposition papers
were facing a possible 20 day suspension. The papers were accused of insulting the
King and Hun Sen
Dam Seth, editor of the Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience) newspaper said after
a meeting with the Minister of Information and writing a letter of apology for two
editorials, his paper would not be shut down.
However, Seth held out the possibility that the real reason he was called before
the ministry was because his paper printed Rainsy's New Year's address in full.
Rainsy agrees. "They waited until I left Cambodia to announce these measures
[against the opposition papers]. They are very afraid because the opposition papers
printed my New Year message in full - that is their only crime."
"They gave better translations which show there are no grounds to accuse me
of treason. The government misinterpreted my speech so they could make accusations
"The government is afraid of my full speech being dispatched throughout the
country, because the speech is as powerful as an army. But we do not use violence,
only democratic and legal means.
"I believe in the power of ideas and my ideas are considered more dangerous
by the government than an army. So they react by threatening to close down the opposition
papers, by not allowing my ideas to spread throughout the country."
As 1999 came to a close the SRP was at the center of yet another political storm
when a video tape emerged showing a former SRP activist, Sok Yoeun from Battambang,
confessing to his involvement with a 1998 assassination attempt against Hun Sen while
the PM was on a visit to Siem Reap.
Yoeun was subsequently arrested by Thai authorities and in December he was sentenced
to a six-month jail term for illegally entering Thailand.
Yoeun is wanted by the Cambodian government for his alleged role in the failed rocket-grenade
attack against Hun Sen. Last September Phnom Penh's military court ordered Yoeun's
arrest for the attack which killed a bystander and wounded three others. But before
police could apprehend Yoeun, he fled to Thailand.
SRP members said Yoeun was being groomed for a leadership role within the party,
and his rapid rise through the party ranks made him a target of the CPP.
While in Thailand, Rainsy had talked to Sok Yoeun's lawyers and others involved in
his case. "It is not only between the Cambodian and Thai governments, it is
also between the two main political parties in Thailand. It is also an international
issue in the sense that it involves the relationship between UNHCR and the Thai government.
It is really becoming complicated," Rainsy said.
He also talked with the judge responsible for the case of Sar Sophorn , the head
of the SRP's Bangkok office charged by Thai authorities with illegally harboring
Sok Yoeun while he was hiding in Bangkok.
The judge told Rainsy that if this was a "normal" case Sar Sophorn could
be released from jail on bail costing no more than 5000 Baht. According to Rainsy
the judge said Thai government authorities directed him not to allow bail because
Sophorn's release would damage relations between Cambodia and Thailand. "On
such a basis the judge refuses to allow bail," said Rainsy.
Rainsy said Hun Sen is simply looking for any excuse to crack down on political opposition
parties and if the excuses are not there, Hun Sen invents them.