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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy disputes 'bloody streetfight' story

Rainsy disputes 'bloody streetfight' story


Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh greets defectors from the Sam Rainsy Party, including the SRP's former cabinet chief Pi Thach, front left in white shirt and glasses. In a two-hour speech at Funcinpec headquarters on August 24 Ranariddh said his compromise with Hun Sen prevented blood on the streets last month.


PPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy has questioned Prince Norodom Ranariddh's motives for

brokering a deal with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to amend the constitution

last month, after Ranariddh, president of Funcinpec, claimed his intervention saved

Cambodia from bloody streetfights.

A power struggle between factions within the CPP on July 12 could have resulted in

fighting worse than the coup seven years ago, in which at least 100 people were killed,

said Ranariddh.

"The situation on the night of July 12 was tense... Samdech Hun Sen and I had

to solve a problem and if we made a wrong decision, the Khmer nation would have become

bloody with [violence] more serious than the factional fighting on July 5 [and] 6,

1997," he said.

But Rainsy and other political observers have played down Ranariddh's role in resolving

the CPP rift, which saw party president Chea Sim, who heads a rival faction to Prime

Minister Hun Sen's allies, escorted out of the country.

"I think Prince Ranariddh was exaggerating. He wanted to paint a possible catastrophe

in order to justify his change of position," said Rainsy.

"The real reason is money... not less than $50 million [given to Ranariddh]

from the CPP through pro-CPP businessmen," said Rainsy.

He predicted the rift within the CPP will deepen and new alliances will be formed

as a result, saying a "new deal in Cambodian politics" was possible.

A month after a coalition government was formed between the CPP and Funcinpec, the

bitter factional split between Chea Sim and Hun Sen continues to be a talking point

at all levels of politics, with one notable exception: the CPP.

The powerful ruling party has closed ranks, sticking to their story that Chea Sim

left the country for medical treatment.

However, when the Post asked Nhek Bun Chhay, the man who eventually signed the constitutional

amendment, if a factional fallout with Hun Sen and his allies was the cause of Chea

Sim's departure, he smiled and nodded.

"The tension was created between Hun Sen, the vice-chairman of the CPP and Chea

Sim, the chairman of the CPP over the disputed addition [to the] constitution,"

said Nhek Bun Chhay, second deputy president of the Senate, on August 24.

The constitution had to be amended to allow for the show-of-hands "package vote"

that saw Hun Sen re-elected as prime minister at the same time as the president of

the National Assembly.

With the King out of the country, acting head of state Chea Sim is said to have refused

to sign and was flown out of Cambodia to Bangkok. Funcinpec's Nhek Bun Chhay stepped

into his shoes to sign the constitutional change.

It is understood that Hun Sen telephoned Ranariddh at about 11pm on July 12 and that

Bun Chhay visited Ranariddh's home some time before signing at 10:30 the next morning.

It has emerged that Chea Sim wanted his faction to keep control of three key portfolios

- agriculture, commerce and water. He was also pushing Hun Sen into bolstering the

stocks of CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum at the expense of Sok An, Minister for


The move would have relieved Sok An either of his entire portfolio or some of the

briefs under his stewardship, with control going to Say Chhum. This includes the

potentially sensitive handling of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

"Chea Sim is fed up with Sok An having everything," one diplomat told the

Post. "There was a split, but the push failed because nobody had the guts to

support Chea Sim."

An incensed Hun Sen was among those who confronted Chea Sim amid a show of force

in the early hours of July 13, shortly before Chea Sim was whisked to the airport.

Sar Kheng and Ke Kim Yan - both allies of Chea Sim - were also prevented from leaving

their homes as National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy led Chea Sim's escort to Pochentong

International Airport.

The Communist Party in Vietnam tried unsuccessfully to use its influence to pressure

Hun Sen into forging a deal with Chea Sim in an attempt to resolve the rift, said

a diplomat, but Hun Sen balked and "he is now more in charge than ever before".

"Basically he was told that a split in the CPP could spell an end to the party.

It's something the Vietnamese have said before, and at the moment there is this pretense

that everything is fine," one Western diplomat said.

"It's like a broken glass: they can mend it but it won't be like before,"

said another diplomat, who said the rift between Chea Sim and Hun Sen has existed

for ten years.



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