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Funcinpec's Sokha says crash no accident

Funcinpec's Sokha says crash no accident

Funcinpec senator Khem Sokha said the October 5 car crash in which he was slightly

injured was a deliberate attempt to assassinate him. He announced he would retire

- temporarily at least - from politics, and intends to join a human rights NGO.

"It is not safe to work in a party in which there are several political tendencies,"

he said, explaining that Funcinpec has one faction loyal to party president Prince

Norodom Ranariddh, another loyal to the former resistance fighters, and yet another

with ties to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

The accident took place at night outside his home in Tuol Kork. The driver of the

car that rammed his vehicle was released after several Funcinpec police officials

arrived on the scene.

"I don't know who the driver was," Sokha said, "but several Funcinpec

officials said the driver is on our side, and told me not to worry - they would guarantee

compensation [for the vehicle]."

He added: "I think now the CPP can use Funcinpec's hand for intimidation or

assassination."

However Funcinpec's co-Minister of Interior You Hokry told the Post that it was too

extreme to characterize the accident as an attempted assassination. He said the police

investigation had determined it was clearly a traffic accident caused by a simple

driving error.

Other Funcinpec members were less certain. Outspoken legislator Nan Sy said political

intimidation was nothing new in Cambodia, and said it was easy to use a car crash

to disguise such attempts.

"This was not a traffic accident," Nan Sy said. "This was an [exercise

in] intimidation to warn other democrats."

Sokha said he would discuss the issue with Ranariddh, who is in France, and secretary-general

Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who is in the United States, once both men returned.

The incident came after a meeting in late September between Sokha, Funcinpec senator

Nhiek Bun Chhay, and the leader of the opposition Sam Rainsy.

Sokha denied there was any political motive for the meeting, and described it as

a chance encounter at the birthday party for the son of SRP senator Keo Phally.

However Ranariddh was less than impressed, telling party members on October 3 that

he did not want them meeting Rainsy. Sokha said the prince had told him that if he

met Rainsy again he would have him followed for 24 hours afterwards.

He said Ranariddh was annoyed also that his own people in the Ministry of Interior

had not told him of the meeting. He had instead found out about it through CPP officials.

The crash comes as Cam-bodia's political parties gear up for the general election

flagged for July 27 next year.

Disaffection among Funcinpec supporters at its weak position in the coalition government

could cause the party to lose much-needed support.

Despite official denials of splits within the party, several highly public disputes

have arisen over the past year. There was much soul-searching within Funcinpec after

the February local elections when it won only a handful of the 1,621 commune chief

positions.

And there was further bitterness when the National Assembly rejected the nomination

of Khan Savoeun as the replacement for co-Minister of Interior You Hokry, whom members

had accused of nepotism and corruption.

Khem Sokha was a member of the opposition Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP)

led by the late Son Sann before joining Funcinpec.

There has been widespread speculation that Sokha might join the SRP in time for the

2003 election.

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