FORMER Khmer Rouge chief Ieng Sary has affirmed that troops under him will, if necessary,
take up arms to enforce the upcoming national election results.
His comments, adding fuel to an already volatile electoral scenario, drew a testy
response from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, who suggested that Sary had forgotten
that breakaway KR soldiers were now part of the Royal government army.
Sary, in an interview last week in Pailin, confirmed the stance of his military commanders
that the Democratic National United Movement (DNUM) will "use guns to make peace"
if post-electoral violence erupts.
The DNUM chairman and former KR foreign minister said that if either of Cambodia's
feuding Prime Ministers refuses to concede defeat after a free and fair election,
the ex-guerrillas will offer military support to the poll winners.
"We will have to point the gun if the electoral results are fair and the losing
party does not hand over power to the winner," said Sary, who also called for
the United Nations to monitor the election.
Sary claimed that the use of DNUM forces - estimated by independent observers at
around 5,000 - would shorten what could become a drawn-out and bloody conflict between
Funcinpec and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
Referring to a likely outbreak of civil war, if either side refuses to concede defeat,
he said his plan to intervene "will make the war shorter and people won't suffer
"We will try our best to avoid a war but if war breaks out, [after the election]
we will respect the winner," said Sary, whose former rebel army ironically boycotted
UN-supervised elections in 1993.
An Apr 25 policy statement, signed by Sary and released in Pailin in early May, called
for the government to set up "a mixed committee independent of the government
to advise on the implementation of the electoral law".
"The United Nations should take up positions as observers to ensure fairness
of the electoral result," it adds.
The former rebels refuse to speculate on which of Cambodia's two major parties is
more likely to block a power transfer after the election, but analysts said their
threat to militarily back electoral winners, is a veiled warning to Hun Sen.
The CPP refused to accept the results of the 1993 election. Party elements led a
succession in east Cambodia, which ultimately led to the formation of the current
coalition government in a compromise.
Hun Sen has blamed the present power sharing arrangement with First Prime Minister
Prince Norodom Ranariddh on "irregularities" in the UN-run 1993 election.
In April, welcoming the Khmer Republican Democratic Party as an alliance partner,
Hun Sen told KRDP officials that they would have gained a seat in the 1993 election
if UNTAC "had not controlled the ballots".
In a May 12 interview at his Takhmao residence, the Second Prime Minister brushed
aside suggestions that the CPP would not hand over power in 1998 if defeated.
"Why would we agree to hold an election if we weren't going to hand over power?"
Clearly annoyed by Sary's threat to use force to uphold electoral results, Hun Sen
questioned the former guerrilla leader's authority to command armed forces in his
"Do you believe Ieng Sary has any forces? I feel he should correct the way he
speaks," Hun Sen said.
"Maybe he forgot that the [DNUM] armed forces have already been integrated and
carry out the declaration of the government," he continued.
"The army can not act without orders from the Chief of General Staff [Ke Kim
Yan], and that general is the general of the government, not the general of Ieng
Meanwhile, Ranariddh said he believed the ex-guerrillas were more likely, for historical
and political reasons, to side with Funcinpec in any post-election clashes.
"For the time being he [Sary] doesn't say that he is on our side, but it's clear
he's rather with [our] patriotic forces than with the other side," an optimistic
Ranariddh told reporters in Siem Reap recently.
Sary and the military commanders of Pailin and Phnom Malai, Generals Ee Chien and
Sok Pheap, say they are concerned about Cambodia's accelerating decent into violence
in the lead up to elections.
Citing the Mar 30 grenade attack in Phnom Penh as an example, the ex-guerrillas have
released statements saying hopes for peace were "being extinguished" by
the political infighting.
"We have peace here now but we worry about Phnom Penh," said Sary aide
Long Narin, who produces the monthly DNUM bulletin which warns about the dangers
of Cambodia returning to a dictatorship.
DNUM's latest political platform statement of Apr 25 blames Pol Pot loyalists for
recent friction between Cambodia's political parties, which they say has thrown the
country into turmoil and endangered the opportunity for "free and secret elections"
to be held on time.
"Pol Pot's team always incite persons and parties to dispute with each other
making the country increasingly divided ... inciting the flame of war to burn again
seriously," it says.
DNUM officials have stated that the movement will remain neutral and will not field
election candidates. But they have conceded they may back independent candidates
for National Assembly seats likely to be allocated to the northwestern former rebel
The former rebels say their role and "duty" is to lobby to ensure "a
fair political atmosphere" is created for the ballots.
"There must not be violence, threats or restrictions or buying of votes, the
electoral laws must be respected," the DNUM statement says.
Meanwhile, hardline Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng - despite reportedly killing members
of a high-ranking Funcinpec negotiating team in February - have not remained coy
about publicly throwing their political backing behind Funcinpec and it's new National
United Front alliance.
In repeated clandestine radio broadcasts since NUF was launched in February, the
KR have urged "patriotic Cambodians" to support the front.
An April 29 broadcast indicated they were ready to give the front their military
backing: "We have an important duty because we are the ones who are holding
the guns ... we must all go to Phnom Penh to gather together to destroy the puppets
of Vietnam who have been killing our people for the last 18 years."