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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM warns over royalists' woes

PM warns over royalists' woes

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned politicians June 5 not to use the armed forces to solve

their internal political conflicts.

His comments, which he gave in a speech in Kampot that was broadcast nationally,

were seen as a lightly veiled warning to Funcinpec members who remain dissatisfied

with ongoing wrangles within the party.

"Some political party has had internal conflicts, with some groups supported

by the military and others supported by the police," the premier said. "If

[they] dare to use the military to confront the police, then I am sorry there will

be an immediate reaction. This is a political message to all political parties."

He asked the comander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Ke Kim Yan, co-Minister

of Interior Sar Kheng, and the head of the gendarmerie, Sao Sokha, to watch the situation

carefully. All three are senior CPP members. He also called on provincial governors

to keep an eye on their areas.

His words came after a second royalist party was created in May by Prince Norodom

Chakrapong, half-brother to party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, as well as a bitter

internal conflict between members who back RCAF's deputy commander-in-chief, Khan

Savoeun, and co-Minister of Interior You Hokry.

To compound Funcinpec's problems, a senior party member, Hang Dara, announced late

May that he would also establish a political party.

In his speech Hun Sen said all government employees had the right to be involved

in politics, but warned them to stay out of internal party disputes and refrain from

using their weapons, uniforms or government buildings for their party interests.

"The government will not allow any group of political parties to use their armed

forces," Hun Sen said. "If there is [a confrontation] please use your teeth

to bite each other. Don't take the government's weapons for fighting."

Asked on June 6 for his response to the speech, Ranariddh said he supported the prime

minister's words and said the internal disputes within his party were embarrassing.

"Funcinpec always has bad luck just before elections," said Ranariddh.

The year before the 1998 election saw several days of fighting in and around Phnom

Penh between military units loyal to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and those

allied to Funcinpec. The royalist party was routed and around 100 Funcinpec party

members murdered. Dozens of high-ranking party officials fled.

When asked whether he was worried that his party's current conflicts would lead to

instability, Ranariddh replied that he was not, since the internal problems had now

been resolved.

"Some people have trouble distinguishing between their interests in their groups

and the interests of the party," he said. He requested that party members stop

pledging support to this or that faction, and instead join hands to ensure victory

in next year's general election.

Funcinpec's troubles were compounded late in May when senior party member Hang Dara

announced he too was forming a political party. Dara said his credentials included

being appointed head of the royalist party's underground movement in 1982.

He said he made his decision May 22 and formally submitted to register the Hang Dara

Movement Democratic Party party with the Ministry of Interior May 27.

The reasons, he said, stemmed from his dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy and nepotism

in Funcinpec's dealings with the CPP. He added that the party had not lived up to

promises made before the 1993 and 1998 elections.

Dara also blamed Funcinpec for failing to solve the poor living conditions of the

people, as well as not dealing with security, illegal immigration, corruption and

damaging the position of the monarchy. These issues, he said, would provide the main

plank of his political platform.

The 50-year-old royalist said he served as a leader of the Sihanouk Movement in the

1960s Sangkum Reastr Niyum, returning in 1982 to carry out similar work. He claimed

200,000 supporters across the country, a number that is impossible to verify.

Ranariddh replied that Dara was not a member of his Funcinpec.

"There is no one in Funcinpec who knows Dara, and this does not give me a headache,

even though he has split 100 times," Ranariddh told the Post.

However the former Funcinpec governor of Banteay Meanchey province, Doung Khem, told

the Post on June 4 that Dara used to be under his command and said he held the post

of "builder of the internal Funcinpec movement" inside the country.

Hun Sen said that the numerous splits in some political parties made him concerned

for the future of politics in Cambodia.

"This [issue] concerns me," he said. "I would like to appeal to the

various political parties to solve their own internal political affairs within the

framework of their party rather than spread their problems to the Cambodian people."

Hun Sen said the country needed stability in both politics and the economy before

the election, which he said would likely be held July 27, 2003. He called on Cambodians

not to support the breakaway groups as this would only magnify the disputes. However,

he said he had heard another three political parties would be announced in the next

few days.

Funcinpec's problems stem in part from the party's disappointing showing at the local

elections held in February, and discontent among former resistance fighters.

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