B UDDHIST Liberal Democratic Party MP Meas Chan Leap - a strong, silent yet key
member of the fractured party - walked alone into the National Assembly's mail
room early Tuesday morning, took out a pistol, and shot himself dead through the
Stung by BLDP's internal rift - and by severe and repeated
criticism from colleagues and local press for the behind-the-scenes part he
played - Chan Leap apparently wanted his death to reunite the party for which he
had supported for 16 years.
That wish appears unlikely to be
Members from both factions have already blamed each other for
driving Chan Leap to suicide.
On the somber day of his death, most
however put politics aside to express sadness and shock.
"It is a black
day for Cambodian politics," said a close friend of Chan Leap's, adding that
nothing good could come from the ritualistic suicide of a man brought up in
Japanese lore where such an act is considered honorable.
Chan Leap, 55,
spent 20 years in Japan, where he married a Japanese woman.
military background as a former army colonel under the Lon Nol regime, one
person who knew him called Chan Leap a "man of honor".
A founding member
of BLDP, Chan Leap left two notes - for Son Sann and Ieng Mouly, heads of the
two factions - calling for reunification.
"His Excellency Minister of
Interior Sar Kheng, who has got the notes, told me that Chan Leap committed
suicide to call the two key party members to hold a reconciliation of the
party's split," said Son Soubert, BLDP Vice-president.
considered by observers to be the closest to the Kandal MP - said Chan Leap
joined the party when it was the KPLNF in 1980.
He later helped to found
BLDP, and had spent a lot of money to fund KPLNF and BLDP.
compared him to other party founding members, he was the one who raised the
largest amount of money to fund KPLNF and he worked very hard to get funds from
overseas to support the party," he said.
A friend of Chan Leap, who
declined to be named, described him as a strong-willed, disciplined man but
because of his Lon Nol army background he was initially distrusted by party
leader Son Sann.
"But Son Sann needed him," one of Chan Leap's friends
said, adding that he "seemed to me to be trying to steer clear of the internal
turmoil" of the party.
When the festering party rift finally erupted in
May, and Son Sann led a move to expel Minister of Information Ieng Mouly, Chan
Leap was instrumental in supporting Son Sann.
But four days later he
"defected" to Mouly's faction.
Koy Chhoeurn, Son Sann's BLDP cabinet
director, said: "Five days before Chan Leap committed suicide, he met a BLDP
general, Lay Y Pisith, and told him that he regretted very much joining Mouly's
Chhoeurn said Chan Leap told Pisith that he regretted being
persuaded to join Mouly, that he was "falling the wrong way", and that he was
sad that the party was split.
"After he learned that what he did was
wrong, he took out a pistol and shot himself dead," he said. "Leap told General
Lay Y Pisith that Mouly's associates were playing children's games... that they
cared only their own interests."
Chhoeurn, like most people involved
spoken to by the Post, did not believe the party could be reunited.
Keat Sokun, secretary of state for Women's Affairs and a Son Sann supporter,
said he would try his best to work toward a reconciliation.
"I will not
allow His Excellency Meas Chan Leap's request and his death to become
meaningless... I and other BLDP senior officials who support Samdech president
Son Sann will do our best to abide by his request... this does not mean that I
will defect to Mouly's side," Sukun said.
"I don't want this problem to
become more and more complicated," Sukun said. "It is time to
Sokun said of Chan Leap's suicide: "I was shocked because he
was my close friend. If I had known before about his suicide plan I would have
told him to choose another way," he said.
Sieng Lapresse, spokesman for
Ministry of Information and a Mouly supporter, said: "Those people who are Son
Sann's associates caused [Chan Leap's] suicide. They were the first problem
Others - perhaps just for the time being - turned away from
"This is a shocking day, surely there are other ways," said one
of Chan Leap's friends.
"But knowing him, he is a tough guy though not
outspoken at all, and in context of being rebuked - severely criticized - for
his role in all this, maybe then yes... I can understand. But there are other
ways," he said.
"I still can't believe it... he had suffered a stroke,
and I met him in the late 80s. Half his body was paralyzed but he made himself
walk as normally as possible. He made such an effort, he gave you the impression
he did not have a handicap at all."
"He was determined to overcome his
stroke. But something drove him to this. He was a tough, systematic guy. But
this suicide, nothing good will come of this."
Meanwhile, Ieng Mouly has
confirmed the Board of Directors of his BLDP faction has voted to expel Son Sann
and five supporters from the party.
A request to remove the six - Sann,
Son Soubert, Kem Sokha, Keat Sokun, Pol Ham and Koy Chhoeurn - from the National
Assembly would be made soon, Mouly said.
However, some political insiders
question whether expelling the six with be a smooth process and there has been
speculation that National Assembly chairman Chea Sim and other senior CPP
officials may not support the Mouly move. There is concern about an increased
uproar over the "democratcization" process should the six follow the
high-profile sacking of Funcinpec's Sam Rainsy.