Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funcinpec military chiefs hunted down

Funcinpec military chiefs hunted down

Funcinpec military chiefs hunted down

F UNCINPEC'S military leadership is in disarray, with its strongest general, Nhek

Bun Chhay, on the run, reportedly possibly killed, and several other key chiefs believed

killed.

At Post press time, diplomats and CPP officials said they had received reports that

Bun Chhay had been captured and killed. The news could not be independently confirmed.

Second PM Hun Sen, meanwhile, confirmed in a July 10 press conference that another

Funcinpec General, Chao Samboth, had been killed.

Hun Sen said he did not learn of the murder until hours later, and had instructed

the Ministry of Interior to find the killers. Samboth should also not have been tortured

before he was killed, Hun Sen added.

Earlier, Funcincpec Secretary of State for Interior Ho Sok was executed last Monday

after being captured in downtown Phnom Penh.

"He has been arrested by government troops and he died," CPP police general

Khieu Sopheak said. "He was shot down by the people that are angry with him."

Sources said Ho Sok was executed at the Ministry of Interior, after he left the house

of the Singapore Ambassador, where he had sought sanctuary.

Ho Sok, whose house came under attack during CPP's offensive against Fun-cinpec last

weekend, is believed to have been sheltering at Prince Norodom Ranariddh's residence

when it fell to CPP forces Sunday night. He and several other Funcinpec officials

escaped by knocking a hole through the wall of the nearby Singapore Ambassador's

house. According to party sources, Ho Sok stayed there the night. He left on Monday,

in circumstances which are unclear.

Singapore has denied reports that its embassy telephoned CPP officials to inquire

whether an arrest warrant for Ho Sok had been issued, tipping them off to his whereabouts,

or that he had formally requested asylum.

"No-one asked for asylum at the Singapore Embassy in Phnom Penh and the Singapore

Embassy did not check on the court warrant to arrest anybody," a statement by

Singapore's foreign ministry said.

An embassy spokesman, asked whether Funcinpec officials including Ho Sok had been

at the ambassador's house, replied: "If there was any entry at the ambassador's

residence, it was made without our approval or knowledge." He denied that Ho

Sok had requested asylum from Singapore.

Whatever the circumstances, Ho Sok is believed to have been captured after a brief

chase soon after leaving the residence. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior

and killed.

Human rights lobby group Amnesty International, in a July 10 statement, said that

Ho Sok and Chao Samboth's murders were "compelling evidence of a targeted campaign

to eliminate political opponents".

"This gives the lie to the message from Phnom Penh authorities that Royalist

supporters are not in danger," Amnesty International said.

One CPP source, while expressing regret for Ho Sok's death, said: "I know that

if Funcinpec had won, they would do the same [to CPP chiefs]."

Nhek Bun Chhay and Ho Sok have long been considered by CPP to be the leaders of a

small group of Funcinpec hardliners accused of illegally moving troops and weapons.

Bun Chhay's whereabouts since he abandoned his Tang Krasang base near Pochentong

airport last Sunday have been the subject of considerable speculation. Reportedly

wounded, he is said to have escaped with an unknown number of troops. CPP officials

claim that they include Khmer Rouge forces and that Bun Chhay had intended to go

to the KR base of Anlong Veng.

A diplomatic source said witnesses had identified wanted KR general Nuon Paet - blamed

for the deaths of three foreign hostages in Kampot province in 1994 - as having been

with Bun Chhay at Tang Krasang.

According to varying later reports, Bun Chhay was said to have been caught and killed

near Oudong, north of Phnom Penh, or in Pursat province.

If reports of his death, and that of Chao Samboth, are true, the next main target

of CPP is Ranariddh's chief security advisor, Serey Kosal.

Following the end of the Phnom Penh fighting, CPP issued arrest warrants for Ho Sok,

Nhek Bun Chhay, Chao Samboth and Serey Kosal, the former Battambang deputy governor

withdrawn after Funcinpec-CPP fighting in the province in February. Kosal has fled

to Thailand, according to unconfirmed reports.

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