A MIXTURE of factors triggered Hun Sen's offensive, most notably the expected conclusion
of Funcinpec negotiations with the Anlong Veng Khmer Rouge, according to diplomats
and other analysts.
The bottom line, say observers, is that Hun Sen believed he would have to fight sooner
or later, and assessed that it was better to do it now rather than closer to the
CPP sources said Hun Sen considered, by late last week, that he had no choice but
to take action.
"The intention was clear. It had to be done immediately, within a few days.
There were intelligence reports of the stockpiling of weapons [by Funcinpec] and
continuing movement of troops to Phnom Penh," one party official said.
Some sources cite a Funcinpec-Khmer Rouge meeting last Friday, the day before the
CPP launched its Phnom Penh attack, as a key factor in Hun Sen's timing.
According to a Cambodian source close to the KR, a deal was agreed upon between Funcinpec
and Anlong Veng at the meeting.
Long Sarin, of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok and a key Funcinpec negotiator, was
seen crossing the Cambodian-Thai border at O'Smach on Friday, escorted by Thai military
intelligence officers. He met KR nominal leader Khieu Samphan at an undisclosed location
on Cambodian soil east of the border checkpoint, sources say.
The meeting resolved that the KR would publicly announce their recognition of Cambodia's
Constitution and the dismantling of their provisional government. An official "defection"
ceremony was planned, but the KR were assured that their military and political structure
could remain intact under the auspices of Samphan's National Solidarity Party.
Hun Sen was aware of the meeting and its expected outcome, sources say.
Funcinpec's willingness to get closer to the KR - boosting the political and military
forces arrayed against CPP as an opposition bloc - added to Hun Sen's fears that
an election victory was by no means guaranteed for him, observers and officials say.
Neutralizing the opposition National United Front established by Funcinpec leader
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, by force if necessary, was critical to his confidence in
going to a ballot.
"Hun Sen wants to go into the election with the certainty of a landslide...
He wants to use democracy as his way to return to dictatorship," a senior CPP
source predicted several weeks ago.
"If he has taken such a risk [to attack Funcinpec], it is really because he
was not sure of himself," said one diplomat this week. "He was not so sure
that he would win the elections."
A further motivation for Hun Sen's timing, the diplomat suggested, was his mounting
concern over the direction of inquiries into the lethal Mar 30 grenade attack on
the Khmer Nation Party. The Washington Post reported June 29 that the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, which sent agents to Phnom Penh to look into the attack, tentatively
blamed personal bodyguards of Hun Sen for the attack.
While CPP was clearly well-prepared for its offensive, it is unclear whether Ranariddh
and Funcinpec had any clear indication that it would happen.
The first sign of major trouble came last Thursday, when CPP forces at a road block
attempted to disarm members of Ranariddh's motorcade, while the Prime Minister himself
was returning by helicopter, near Oudong, north of Phnom Penh. Earlier, Funcinpec
and CPP forces had clashed at a naval base near the area.
The next day, Ranariddh hurriedly left the country. "It is a very good solution,"
one senior Funcinpec military official privately said that day. "The Prince
- he doesn't want to fight. Now we have no commander-in-chief, we will respond if
CPP continues to provoke us."
The next day, Saturday, CPP began raiding the military bases and homes of key Funcinpec
commanders. Within 48 hours, the final showdown - and Funcinpec's fighting spirit
- was over.