E EGISLATORS are determined to give the co-defense ministers a parliamentary
grilling to find out exactly what caused the military debacles at Pailin and
Fourteen Funcinpec and BLDP members of the National Assembly
have signed a petition demanding that Co-Ministers of Defense Tea Banh and Tea
Chamrath appear before the National Assembly to face questions on the losses and
military strategy failings.
The MPs say they are exercising their powers
under article 89 of the constitution, which says that "a high ranking member of
the government" can be invited before the Assembly to "clarify important special
issues." There are 120 members in the Assembly, and there are just enough MPs
supporting the petition.
The petition has reportedly been given last week
to National Assembly Chairman Chea Sim, who is to send it to the defense
ministry. He has reportedly not done so because of heavy political opposition
from within his own Cambodian People's Party.
"There is so much secrecy
about military affairs that we do not even know exactly how many soldiers died
in Pailin," says Human Rights Commission Chairman Kem Sokha of the BLDP, one of
the signatories. "We have a right to know from the government how and why Anlong
Veng and Pailin were lost."
There have been several reports about
terrible conditions at the battlefront, with government soldiers going without
food, water and salaries, but the government has not publicly
There have also been allegations of massive looting by
government soldiers at Pailin, with the worst offenders being high ranking
officers. In fact, several soldiers are said to have left because they did not
get their due share of the loot.
Also, when the government soldiers fled
Pailin, they are reported to left behind several wounded soldiers at the Pailin
hospital, all of whom were killed by the Khmer Rouge.
hope that the co-ministers of defense can clarify how much of these reports is
true. They also wish to discuss openly what the military plans really were
especially with the escalation in fighting.