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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy is 'prepared to face the court'

Rainsy is 'prepared to face the court'

A LLEGATIONS by 10 self-proclaimed urban Khmer Rouge agents could open the way for

criminal action against opposition politician Sam Rainsy and his Khmer Nation Party

under Cambodia's law outlawing the KR, knowledgeable observers say.

In a news conference at the Phnom Penh house of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, the

10 men charged that Rainsy met with nominal KR leader Khieu Samphan before launching

the KNP and later took $2 million for the party from the rebels. They also said that

more than 16,000 KR members joined the KNP, and that KR forces were ordered to cooperate

with the KNP.

"Personally, I am looking forward to defending myself at court," said Rainsy

Nov 27, commenting publicly on the allegations after he finished a three-week stint

as a monk (see adjoining story.)

An independent political observer and a CPP official said the charges could be evidence

in a court case against Rainsy.

They compared the charges to the case of exiled Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who was

convicted in connection with an alleged plot to kill Hun Sen.

The observers also suggested that Hun Sen was sending a warning to both Rainsy and

First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh, as speculation of a KNP-Funcinpec alliance

mounts.

The group of 10 alleged that before contacting Hun Sen they were visited by two men

who said they were "special secret envoys" of Ranariddh. The "envoys"

told them that the time was not right for them to defect, and that they should wait,

they alleged in a statement.

Ranariddh, at a press conference the day after the allegations were made, said: "These

men are telling lies."

He threatened to sue them for defamation.

In the press conference on Nov 16, the men described themselves as part of a 5,000-strong

"underground" KR spy network, 200 of them in Phnom Penh. They said they

wanted to defect.

The group said their work in Phnom Penh had included infiltrating other political

parties and newspapers, and forming NGOs and associations.

They also said that Rainsy had formed a group of six KR agents to protect the launch

of KNP. Each was told that they would be given $3,000 for every grenade they threw

at any police or military officers who tried to disturb the official launch. (There

was no disturbance, and no grenades were thrown).

The group provided no direct evidence of their allegations - though at a subsequent

press conference four days later they displayed a stack of KNP membership cards -

and were permitted by Hun Sen's staff to answer only a few questions from journalists.

Rainsy firmly denied the allegations against him, but did so reluctantly - he said

they were too ridiculous to respond to.

But he said he would welcome a proper judicial investigation, open to public scrutiny,

to determine whether there was any real evidence.

"Contrary to Prince Sirivudh, I am prepared to face the court. I am not running

away, I am not asking for any possible exile. I have nothing to hide, therefore I

have nothing to fear."

Rainsy said he expected support from Funcinpec if he were to be charged.

" When Sirivudh was exiled, there was not the split between the Funcinpec and

CPP...

"I think more people would dare and would have an interest now in speaking their

minds than last year..."

The two leaders of the alleged KR defectors who made the allegations against Rainsy

are Sieng Sophearak and Doung Buntha, who are known in journalistic and political

circles in Phnom Penh.

Sophearak worked for the NGO ADHOC in Battambang before the elections and was asked

to resign, according to ADHOC official Aing Eng Thong, after pocketing money that

was supposed to be paid to other staff.

In 1994 he worked for the pro-KNP Voice of Khmer Youth newspaper for several months,

before being sacked for selling equipment donated to the paper by an NGO, according

to several sources at the paper.

Sophearak was one of nine people arrested in Dec 1995 on suspicion of being KR agents.

In Aug 1996 he was convicted of disinformation, a charge apparently relating to anti-government

leaflets he had circulated.

He was sentenced to eight months in jail - the time he had already served while awaiting

trial - and released.

At his trial, he strenuously proclaimed his innocence of any crime, and urged a Post

reporter to contact Amnesty International on his behalf.

The other leader of the claimed defector group, Doung Buntha, is a former Ministry

of Interior colonel. He is known to have previously been a member of Funcinpec and

of BLDP.

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