FEARING that the Khmer Rouge split is a ruse, and loathe to deal with senior KR leaders
they have despised and fought for years, parts of Hun Sen's CPP appear to be trying
to put the brakes on any settlement with the splinter group.
"The government is weakening with the Khmer Rouge issue, and only the Khmer
Rouge is strengthening," warned one Phnom Penh CPP official unhappy at the pace
The most conspicuous attempt to urge caution - and rein in Hun Sen's apparent willingness
to accept the KR splitters - came in a Sept 1 opinion piece in the daily Rasmei Kampuchea
Chang Song, an adviser to party president and National Assembly chairman Chea Sim,
put his name to the article whose title translated to "The Tactics of Negotiation."
While urging Phnom Penh not to be so implacable as to thwart the prospect of national
reconciliation, Song urged the government to pay heed to both the Cambodian and international
communities' desire for justice for those KR implicated in genocide under Pol Pot.
With that in mind, Song wrote that Ieng Sary should prove that his breakaway from
the KR "hardline" was genuine and not merely a trick.
In order to do so, Sary must prove that Pol Pot was no longer leading the KR. Also,
troops loyal to Sary should hand over their arms to the government, be prepared to
join the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and help fight the remaining guerrilla hardliners.
Song went further, saying that Sary should help arrange for millions of dollars in
KR timber and gem-mining profits to be transfered to the government.
In return, he offered, Sary and his followers would earn the forgiveness of the Cambodian
people and could form a political party.
However, the existing law outlawing the KR should remain, he said, so recalcitrant
forces could still be punished.
The opinion piece summed up what CPP sources claim to be increasing concern within
the party at the rapidly unfolding KR situation and Hun Sen's handling of it.
Another senior CPP source, who would not be named, outlined a detailed analysis that
the KR splintering was an elaborate "Trojan horse" charade.
Questioning how the decades-old movement had split apart with remarkably little fighting
between the two factions, he suggested the ruse had begun with the "story of
Pol Pot's death" and culminated with "Ieng Sary becoming a peace-lover."
The KR, aiming to take advantage of the near-collapse of the government coalition,
hoped to align with Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party and the Son Sann-side
of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party.
Such "united front" tactics had been used by the KR in the 1960s, and again
in the 1980s during the anti-Vietnamese resistence. The KR hoped to place some of
its members within the legal, democratic political system while still maintaining
a military backbone in the jungle.
The official said that even if the KR split was genuine, much of CPP did not want
to do deals with the likes of Ieng Sary.
The CPP were happy to accept defections from lower ranks but not to excuse senior
leaders who held high-ranking positions under the Pol Pot regime, he said.
Political observers agreed that Hun Sen faced a major hurdle within his own party,
with one suggesting that the KR breakaway was marking the "unravelling of the
CPP" while another said: "This is not CPP party policy... Hun Sen is doing
What remains unclear is the Second Prime Minister's strategy. One party official
suggested he had initially tried to "steal the show", and potential political
glory, from what he believed would be major KR defections.
Other observers - who, in the words of one, noted that "dealing with the Khmer
Rouge goes against every fibre of Hun Sen's being" - suggested he was playing
a divide and rule strategy.
Noting his outspoken support for Ieng Sary and initial claims of mass defections
from the KR, they suggested he had been trying to provoke a major fight between the
If so, the plan appeared to have failed and he had backed himself in a corner.
"It's a dangerous game and the stakes are high," said one Western observer.
"He curses Sam Rainsy as being Khmer Rouge, and then turns around and says exactly
what Rainsy always called for.
"Ieng Sary does raise some eyebrows - and definitely turn some stomaches - within
Meanwhile, CPP officials in Banteay Meanchey - who appeared strongly loyal to Hun
Sen but concerned at Funcinpec's domination of talks with the KR splinter group -
also urged a slower, careful approach to negotiations.
"The negotiations are like rice. People want to eat well-cooked rice, not badly-cooked
rice," said the province's CPP-appointed police commissioner, Sok Saret.
"If we press for the negotiations to produce the quickest result, it is similar
to pressuring the people to eat badly-cooked rice."
Proclaiming that the police were closely monitoring talks with the KR for security
reasons, he said: "In the view of the provincial police forces, the Khmer Rouge
are still not clear on the issue of national reconciliation.
"In my personal view, I think that if the Khmer Rouge breakaway really believe
in national reconciliation, they should abandon their arms and mix up with other
He said that real negotiations had not yet begun, and nothing would be finalized
unless agreed upon by the top leaders of the government.
"I have to tell you that the Khmer Rouge are hardline people. They will never
submit to a weak partner... only a strong partner.
"Those who are strong is the Royal government and also the strong political
party which the Khmer Rouge fought for many years and was never able to defeat,"
he said of CPP.
"The Khmer Rouge are very strong-headed. Believe me, if they think that they
can defeat the Royal government, they will not give in to negotiations."
Saret, who expressed great admiration for Hun Sen, made it plain that his concern
was primarily about Funcinpec's acceptance of the KR.
A senior CPP official in Sisophon, Chuong Prasoeuth, expressed similar views, saying:
"My own personal view is that there is not yet any sign that real peace is approaching.
"The question is whether other people wholeheartedly have peace or not? If they
do want real peace, they will try to do everything for peace.
"I was happy when those Khmer Rounge announced they broke away. This is a good
sign...but I think we have got to be cautious when dealing with the Khmer Rouge.
"When they took my brother and sister away to be killed [during the Pol Pot
regime], they told them they were taking them to study...That's an example of the
Khmer Rouge and why we need to be cautious."