Funcinpec party leader Nhek Bun Chhay marked the 15th anniversary of what he called the “factional fighting” of 1997, and what many have called a bloody coup that swept Prime Minister Hun Sen to power, by sharing some of his own experiences yesterday and blaming the entire mess on Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
He said that Ranariddh, who was then sharing the prime minister’s seat with Hun Sen, had asked Bun Chhay to meet with Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan without telling Hun Sen.
“This point caused uncertainty in the coalition government,” he said.
“Samdech Hun Sen asked to meet with Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh] to have a talk about these issues, but Samdech Krom Preah did not agree and went abroad. That’s what caused the event of July 5-6, 1997.”
When contacted yesterday, spokesman of the Norodom Ranariddh Party Pen Sangha said Bun Chhay was just scoring political points.
“Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh], actually, did not have any intention to create this event, because he was a winner of the election,” he said.
Over those two days in July, troops loyal to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who led Funcinpec at the time, fought street battles in Phnom Penh.
CPP troops emerged the victor, Ranariddh went into exile in France, and the Hun Sen-led CPP has won every subsequent election.
Bun Chayy also took the occasion yesterday to pass out copies of his two-volume biography, whose title roughly translates to “An Incredible Piece of Luck Among 1,000 Risks”.
Bun Chhay said that on July 6, he had withdrawn about 1,200 troops from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang province, and after that, some troops were divided into small groups to escape as a guerrilla strategy.
His men were surrounded by CPP armed forces. They tried to escape and two of his commanders were killed in the process.
He then fled to the Cambodia-Thailand border where he led a resistance movement before eventually returning to Phnom Penh and rejoining political life.
To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]