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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Political violence in provinces

Political violence in provinces

A SURGE of violence and intimidation against Funcinpec and the Khmer Nation Party

(KNP) is being reported in Cambodia's provinces.

Politically-motivated human rights abuses are worse now than at any time since the

1993 elections, according to an investigator with nearly four years experience in


On May 15, according to human rights workers, a Funcinpec office in Andong Meas district,

Ratanakiri, was ransacked by a 180-strong mob. A party sign was pulled down and destroyed

and property stolen.

On May 17, three KNP members were arrested by local militia at Ang Snoul in Kandal

province and detained for two days. Family members were reportedly asked for $300

to avoid the trio being sent to a Phnom Penh prison.

The situation is particularly bad in Siem Reap, where one KNP worker was killed and

Cambodian People's Party (CPP) officials confiscated guns from Funcinpec staff.

KNP National Council member Phing Phinn died May 18 after being severely beaten eight

days earlier near his home of Srey Snom in Siem Reap. Some 2,020 completed party

membership applications, with photos, were stolen from him.

In two other Siem Reap districts, some Funcinpec members are going into hiding each

night, for fear of attack.

On May 18, police visited at least four houses of Funcinpec leaders in Sotr Nikum

and Svay Leu districts and took away a total of 10 guns, mostly AK47s.

"Before they came to see me, they let me know through friends and neighbors

that if I had any reaction, they would kill me," said Yo So Phany, Funcinpec's

Svay Leu chief.

He gave up his weapons without resistance and, the same day, moved to another house.

In neighboring Sotr Nikum district, police visited the home of Funcinpec chief Prak

Prorn and other party officials.

"They...asked to see the weapons and my ID card," said Prorn.

He said six police took the guns and asked him to fingerprint a statement saying

he could never have weapons again.

The Funcinpec officials say the guns were solely for their self-defense, and they

had kept them in their houses for years.

The police chief in Sotr Nikum, Seng Saning, said police were merely enforcing "a

provincial and national decree on illegal possession of weapons."

"Look, here is the decree that gives authorization to withdraw illegal weapons.

It is signed by Hun Sen and Heng Samrin [CPP's honorary president and a former Cambodian

head of state], " he said.

Realizing his mistake, he smiled and corrected it: "Hun Sen and Ranariddh."

Funcinpec officials contested the legality of the firearm confiscations, complaining

that only their party was targeted and that the weapons were correctly registered.

They pointed to a May 13 sub-decree signed by Siem Reap's governor, Toan Chay (Funcinpec),

which set up a mixed 12-member committee to control firearms in the province.

Tes Chan Kiry, Funcinpec's deputy leader in the province, said one CPP district chief

had threatened Funcinpec members to join the CPP or be killed.

He compared the situation to the run-up to the 1993 election, when 44 Funcinpec members

were killed.

"I remember when the police came at my house [in 1993]. Today I worry that those

things could happen again."

Funcinpec officials say the latest problems began after their return from a national

congress in Phnom Penh in March, when party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh threatened

to pull out of the government if CPP did not agree to greater power-sharing.

"When we came back, CPP members said that the First Prime Minister was a traitor

and he wanted to break the Constitution," said Prak Prorn.

A human rights group said CPP officials, military police and soldiers attended a

demonstration in one district - the same day as the guns were seized - accusing Ranariddh

of "betraying the Constitution and creating fears among the population."

Chan Kiry said he had told concerned party members to avoid sleeping in their houses

at night, "to save their lives."

In Sotr Nikum and Svay Leu, some members are following that advice, leaving their

villages to go and sleep in the forest.

"We are afraid of CPP members who could come like robbers at night," said


"I think in few days I will move to Siem Reap. It is safer," said So Phany.

He added: "When you come back to Phnom Penh, tell Prince Ranariddh that if the

trouble keeps on, we will resign from the party."

Chan Kiry said CPP members were afraid that Funcinpec will renew their links with

Khmer Rouge defectors in the province.

Hem Bun Heng, Siem Reap's second deputy governor (Funcinpec), said: "You know,

in some places CPP think we are their enemy and they still point the guns at us."

Funcinpec General Khan Savoeun, chief of the 4th military region, said: "Most

people like to live in peace but there are some people who want to get the power.

"This is simple: if I know you are weaker than me, I dare to hit out....If I

was them [CPP] I would not dare..."

But he compared the problems to a husband being angry at his wife, and "she

has to accept her husband's anger."

Meanwhile, the NGO Licadho said that as well as politically-motivated incidents around

Cambodia, there has been a general increase in crime and human rights abuses.

Licadho, which investigates abuses by military and police, said last month was its

busiest since it began in July 1992.

Eva Galabru of Licadho said 21 investigations were being conducted, compared with

four in March. They included murders, illegal detentions, the unlawful seizure of

land and four cases of rape of young children.

One case involved the murder by soldiers of a villager accused of spying for the

Khmer Rouge at Moung Russei, between Battambang and Pursat. The case was taken to

court but, according to investigators, the court was intimidated by the local military

commander who threatened violence if the matter was pursued.

Another involved the imprisonment of the families of two villagers accused of complicity

in the recent kidnapping of Thai workers in Kompong Speu.

Galabru said the dry season was usually bad for human rights violations because of

increased military activity.

"Because people know the Khmer Rouge will be accused of anything and everything,

that's when there is an increase in violations...

" It is becoming very difficult. [Licadho} staff have never been so busy and

we are getting very little cooperation [from authorities].



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