Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Military claims 41 SRP defectors

Military claims 41 SRP defectors

Military claims 41 SRP defectors

AT LEAST 41 members of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) have confessed to being members

of a rebel militia intent on overthrowing Prime Minister Hun Sen and have defected

to the government, a military official said.

General Bun Seng, RCAF chief of Division Five based in the country's northwest, said

six high-powered members of the SRP's Committee No 14 were the first to defect from

Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces after a deal was struck with the Information

Ministry.

They carried documents bearing the SRP logo containing details for the militia structure

and invoices which detailed the rebels' payroll, he added. Others followed suit,

defecting over the past week and more were expected.

SRP president Sam Rainsy, who is in the United States, has rejected Hun Sen's claim

that he is attempting to oust the government by force.

Long Sarei, who was among the SRP defectors, said he was cheated by his party after

being told he would have a job in the new coalition government which was formed on

July 13, almost a year after national elections were held.

"After I heard the announcement of Samdech Hun Sen on July 18, then I knew that

I was cheated by SRP," he said referring to Hun Sen's stunning declaration of

rebels trying to oust him.

"I returned here to confess about all the bad things the Sam Rainsy Party has

been organising," Sarei said.

Hun Sen has threatened to confiscate the SRP's 24 seats in the National Assembly

unless the alleged militia surrenders and confesses by August 2.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have cast doubt on the confessions and

Hun Sen's claims that the SRP is raising arms against the government.

Hun Sen has said two high-ranking SRP officials directly involved with issuing instructions

to the militia will probably face legal action.

"If they do not confess in time, the authorities must take legal action to bring

them to court," he said.

Tea Banh, Co-Defense Minister (CPP), told the Post that legal experts from his ministry

were examining the evidence and would ensure that the legal processes are followed

within reason.

"We have the evidence against them [SRP members], and now our legal experts

are examining all the documents," he said.

Eng Chhay Eang, SRP secretary general, said he was not surprised by Hun Sen's allegations,

which had prompted about 20 SRP actvists to go into hiding.

"I think that if we look at the violence that has followed previous elections,

then it is obvious that Hun Sen is capable of anything to destroy the opposition

party," Eang said. "But the people will judge who is wrong or right."

King Norodom Sihanouk, in self-imposed exile in North Korea, has urged Hun Sen to

pardon any opposition activist accused of being tied to a militia.

"My idea is that this small group has no ability and no resources to recruit

an armed force - please Samdech forgive this handful," wrote the King.

One analyst, who declined to be named, said allegations about the rebel forces were

an attempt by Hun Sen to deflect attention away from factional brawling in the CPP

and shore up relations with Funcinpec.

"There would be no reason for Hun Sen to be concerned about recruitment of the

so-called militia if there were no internal political disputes within the CPP,"

he said.

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