Prime Minister Hun Sen warned politicians June 5 not to use the armed forces to solve
their internal political conflicts.
His comments, which he gave in a speech in Kampot that was broadcast nationally,
were seen as a lightly veiled warning to Funcinpec members who remain dissatisfied
with ongoing wrangles within the party.
"Some political party has had internal conflicts, with some groups supported
by the military and others supported by the police," the premier said. "If
[they] dare to use the military to confront the police, then I am sorry there will
be an immediate reaction. This is a political message to all political parties."
He asked the comander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Ke Kim Yan, co-Minister
of Interior Sar Kheng, and the head of the gendarmerie, Sao Sokha, to watch the situation
carefully. All three are senior CPP members. He also called on provincial governors
to keep an eye on their areas.
His words came after a second royalist party was created in May by Prince Norodom
Chakrapong, half-brother to party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, as well as a bitter
internal conflict between members who back RCAF's deputy commander-in-chief, Khan
Savoeun, and co-Minister of Interior You Hokry.
To compound Funcinpec's problems, a senior party member, Hang Dara, announced late
May that he would also establish a political party.
In his speech Hun Sen said all government employees had the right to be involved
in politics, but warned them to stay out of internal party disputes and refrain from
using their weapons, uniforms or government buildings for their party interests.
"The government will not allow any group of political parties to use their armed
forces," Hun Sen said. "If there is [a confrontation] please use your teeth
to bite each other. Don't take the government's weapons for fighting."
Asked on June 6 for his response to the speech, Ranariddh said he supported the prime
minister's words and said the internal disputes within his party were embarrassing.
"Funcinpec always has bad luck just before elections," said Ranariddh.
The year before the 1998 election saw several days of fighting in and around Phnom
Penh between military units loyal to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and those
allied to Funcinpec. The royalist party was routed and around 100 Funcinpec party
members murdered. Dozens of high-ranking party officials fled.
When asked whether he was worried that his party's current conflicts would lead to
instability, Ranariddh replied that he was not, since the internal problems had now
"Some people have trouble distinguishing between their interests in their groups
and the interests of the party," he said. He requested that party members stop
pledging support to this or that faction, and instead join hands to ensure victory
in next year's general election.
Funcinpec's troubles were compounded late in May when senior party member Hang Dara
announced he too was forming a political party. Dara said his credentials included
being appointed head of the royalist party's underground movement in 1982.
He said he made his decision May 22 and formally submitted to register the Hang Dara
Movement Democratic Party party with the Ministry of Interior May 27.
The reasons, he said, stemmed from his dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy and nepotism
in Funcinpec's dealings with the CPP. He added that the party had not lived up to
promises made before the 1993 and 1998 elections.
Dara also blamed Funcinpec for failing to solve the poor living conditions of the
people, as well as not dealing with security, illegal immigration, corruption and
damaging the position of the monarchy. These issues, he said, would provide the main
plank of his political platform.
The 50-year-old royalist said he served as a leader of the Sihanouk Movement in the
1960s Sangkum Reastr Niyum, returning in 1982 to carry out similar work. He claimed
200,000 supporters across the country, a number that is impossible to verify.
Ranariddh replied that Dara was not a member of his Funcinpec.
"There is no one in Funcinpec who knows Dara, and this does not give me a headache,
even though he has split 100 times," Ranariddh told the Post.
However the former Funcinpec governor of Banteay Meanchey province, Doung Khem, told
the Post on June 4 that Dara used to be under his command and said he held the post
of "builder of the internal Funcinpec movement" inside the country.
Hun Sen said that the numerous splits in some political parties made him concerned
for the future of politics in Cambodia.
"This [issue] concerns me," he said. "I would like to appeal to the
various political parties to solve their own internal political affairs within the
framework of their party rather than spread their problems to the Cambodian people."
Hun Sen said the country needed stability in both politics and the economy before
the election, which he said would likely be held July 27, 2003. He called on Cambodians
not to support the breakaway groups as this would only magnify the disputes. However,
he said he had heard another three political parties would be announced in the next
Funcinpec's problems stem in part from the party's disappointing showing at the local
elections held in February, and discontent among former resistance fighters.