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
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
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
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