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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rumours hold sway while the PM's away

Rumours hold sway while the PM's away

THE Phnom Penh rumor mill shifted into a high gear during Prime Minister Hun Sen's

recent travel to Cuba, Canada and the US.

With the PM abroad, coffee shops, market stalls and street corners were buzzing with

subdued talk about imminent fighting and chaos.

Also, Cambodian newspapers - government as well as opposition friendly - ran a number

of articles alleging that the army was mobilizing in several provinces. Some reports

were quite specific and brought details all the way down to division and unit levels.

Whereas most seemed to expect that the believed tension would climax on Monday the

27th, there was some confusion as to what would actually happen. One speculation,

favored among others by the Voice of Khmer Youth, was that Minister of Interior and

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng was plotting to topple Hun Sen while the Prime Minister

was out of the country.

Others spoke of a clash with Thai army troops near the border. Or a heavy-handed

crackdown on the Khmer Serei, presumably holed up in the jungle in Kratie.

However, all was apparently quiet when the dreaded date came. And with the Prime

Minister safely back in his office, street talk soon turned to other less fearful


"This is not a new game in Cambodia," said one political analyst when asked

about the latest inventions of the ever-operational rumor factory.

"Every time the Prime Minister leaves the country, these rumors start floating

around. I believe it comes from people outside the CPP trying to spread the idea

of an internal split in the party.

"People in Cambodia are very receptive to rumors, so after a while they gain

their own dynamic," he said.

Dr Lao Mong Hay of the Khmer Institute of Democracy sees a different background for

the reappearing talk of imminent violence and bloodshed.

"Such rumors are created to show the importance of Hun Sen; as a way of saying

that the Prime Minister is the only one who can put down an attempted coup and therefore

we need him to keep order in the country," he said.

Whatever the reason, it seems the much-celebrated peace and stability haven't completely

eliminated the worried whispers of fighting and riots from the streets of Phnom Penh.



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