ANOTHER couple of attempts at striking a CPP-Funcinpec
coalition have been botched in the past fortnight.
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen tentatively floated the
idea of a bipartite sharing of the coveted chair of the
National Assembly around Oct 20.
It seemed a concession worthy of debate, and insiders
say it was one the CPP might have finally calculated it
should give. But "the party would have retained full
control of the [power of the] position anyway," said
one CPP source.
The CPP allowed the information to go public a couple
of days later, but instead maintained that it was
Funcinpec that had offered the idea to CPP president Chea
Sim, who currently holds the position. Funcinpec
immediately denied having done so.
But, behind the scenes, this little public flurry was
little more than a cover-up for a "concession"
that had already been shot dead in the water.
The CPP had actually approached Funcinpec's Prince
Norodom Sirirath, Cambodia's ambassador to the United
Nations and one of the new royalist MPs for Battambang,
to fill the position - and to sell the deal to his party
as a way out of the deadlock.
In exchange, according to wide and knowledgeable
intelligence, the CPP promised to take care of various
bothersome accounts belonging to the Prince.
Sirirath dined with senior party members, including
Secretary General Tol Lah, and various foreign diplomats,
and floated the idea of a dual Assembly chairmanship to
elicit reaction, sources confirmed.
Insiders say that the diplomats who were approached
were very supportive of the suggestion. One source said
that any potential to break the impasse - however
unworkable it might be in practice - would be gladly
nurtured by frustrated diplomats in this present climate.
Funcinpec immediately slam-med the idea when it was
reported back to Bangkok. It is understood Sirirath has
been discredited within party ranks.
"A co-chair position might have been great - if
it was offered in August," said one political
analyst. "But how could Ranariddh possibly accept
this sort of approach now? This plan may as well be
The Sirirath affair was the second political move to
be spun with disinformation in the past fortnight.
Some recent reports had Interior Minister Sar Kheng
requesting a meeting with Ranariddh, possibly in
Singapore where Ranariddh was about to travel. It was
suggested that Ranariddh however refused to meet the
deputy prime minister.
However, CPP sources in Phnom Penh say Ranariddh was
not to blame. They say that Hun Sen had outlined a plan
to Sar Kheng for him to offer to the Prince, but Kheng
"Sar Kheng could have been accused of making
deals... it was an obvious trap and he refused to go. But
the rumors are now the other way, that Sar Kheng
initiated it," one said.
The feeling within the ruling party now is that all
moves and decisions are entirely up to Hun Sen, according
to both party and diplomatic sources.
"Analyze the speeches by Hun Sen [at Chaktomuk
Hall Oct 22 at the King's Birthday celebration] and Chea
Sim [in a press release from his Cabinet the following
day]," said the CPP source. "Hun Sen is
prepared to go alone... combatative. Chea Sim seems much
more conciliatory. There is a big difference going on
Hun Sen said too much time had been wasted talking.
"The suffering and hardship of the people prompted
the current government to free itself from being the
hostage to the politicians in the minority...," he
"We do not allow anyone to take part in the
government in order to undermine the government,
hampering the government to serve the people."
Saying "if we idle away and wait, it means
death", Hun Sen outlined a seven-point plan to
combat corruption, impunity, and to reform the judiciary
and economy - without having to wait on a coalition.
Chea Sim, the next day, instead made a rare public
statement that: "The Cambodian's People's Party and
Funcinec are good partners. They are the vital nucleus
for the resolution of the current deadlock."
He seemed willing for further dialogue between the two
Diplomats spoken to by the Post say that, despite
everything, they still see a glimmer of hope that some
quid pro quo deal will be struck. However, this was a
feeling born of hope rather than logic, many admitted.
"It's a zero sum game [that everyone] seems
determined to play," said one. "Development is
going back to the dogs."
One senior official outlined a grim scenario of
kidnappings and crime rising, social unrest escalating
and the resistance in the northwest being weak although
balanced by an administration in Phnom Penh that was
corrupt and disinterested in social problems. "It's
like 1981. The only difference is that in the 1980s both
the resistance and the government grew in strength
together, and only out of this strength could a deal be
done. But now one side is weak and one side is corrupted
and disinterested, all that may happen is anarchy....
"If, once the technocrats that actually wanted to
do some good for the country leave, they'll leave for
good. That's bad. I cannot see a way out."
Meanwhile, a new shadowy force based in the northwest
has emerged this week claiming to stand for all that is
good in Cambodia.
The Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) issued a
statement this week saying 800 soldiers in the northwest
have declared support for the movement which says it aims
to promote "democracy and human rights".
However the announcement has sparked a series of
denials and accusations between the government and
Funcinpec loyalists under Nhek Bun Chhay.
The government says the CFF is a front for Bun Chhay,
who in turn says the CFF is a ruse by Hun Sen to test
loyalties within the army.
Bun Chhay said that the group had been created by Hun
Sen through his military adviser Gen. Mul Roeup in order
to find and weed out RCAF soldiers who were not loyal to
"It is a trick group. They [CPP] want to kill any
soldiers who are still loyal to me," Bun Chhay said
by telephone on Oct 27.
Some of the RCAF soldiers became involved with the CFF
secretly, especially the soldiers in the Region No. 5 who
used to be Khan Savoeun's command, Bun Chhay claimed.
He said soldiers had to consent to having their
pictures taken if they wished to join the CFF. They were
told the pictures would then be sent to the United States
in an effort to raise American aid.
However Bun Chhay said that instead of America the
pictures were being sent to Hun Sen so he could see who
He said some RCAF commanders including Thoeuk Tham had
escaped and joined him in O'Smach when they learned the
group was a CPP front. "They were frightened,"
He said 460 soldiers of RCAF Divison 7 were supposed
to be brought to him by their commander, Thoek Tham, but
he instead asked them to stay put and to protect the
territory from occupation by government soldiers.
However Mul Roeup, military adviser to Hun Sen, denied
this version, claiming the CFF was actually a Bun Chhay
creation designed to confuse the public and the
"I am not the owner of CFF and have not asked any
of my people to form up this unit," he said.
"It belongs to Nhek Bun Chhay."
Meanwhile the CFF itself says that neither Roeup nor
Bun Chhay were correct.
Yon Sok San, who is apparently the CFF Commander in
Chief, said the group was non-political, other than being
anti-communist. It was set up after the July coup but
officially came into being in October.
He said that the CFF would accept any soldiers who
wished to join and respect the group's rules.
The CFF had set up its flag in Thmar Pouk in Banteay
Meanchey province and Hun Sen had sent 15 trucks loaded
with soldiers to fight the CFF. But he said that there
was no fighting because both sides talked and realized
they agreed on many issues.