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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Suicide MP sought party unity

Suicide MP sought party unity

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

temple.

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

realized.

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.

With his

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.

Soubert -

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.

"If we

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

faction."

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.

But

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

reunite."

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

makers."

Others - perhaps just for the time being - turned away from

politics.

"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.

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