Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PMs move to quell northwest strife

PMs move to quell northwest strife

PMs move to quell northwest strife

AFTER months of brewing tensions and sporadic bloodletting in Battambang, the

co-Prime Ministers this week finally moved to dampen the tempers of the province's

feuding leaders.

The province's governor, deputy governor, and two military commanders were recalled

to Phnom Penh by order of the PMs Feb 16.

The bid to defuse the crisis - which came the day before Indonesian President Suharto

arrived for a state visit to Phnom Penh - followed days of unprecendented political

violence in the northwest.

Relieved of their positions were Ung Samy, the CPP governor of Battambang, and Serey

Kosal, Funcinpec's first deputy governor, as well as Hul Savoan and Kla Chan Sovanarith,

the parties' respective military commanders.

But Ly Thuch, chief of cabinet for First Prime Minister and Funcinpec leader Prince

Norodom Ranariddh, rejected any suggestion that Serey Kosal was being demoted or

dismissed.

In fact, he said Kosal had been promoted as Ranariddh's special envoy. Kosal could

still travel to Battambang, Thuch said.

"They have not been removed from their posts," Thuch said Tuesday about

Kosal and the three others. "They have just been asked to come to Phnom Penh

temporarily."

"The governor and deputy-governor have been recalled temporarily, but they have

not been stripped of their functions," said Prak Sokhun, an aide to Second Prime

Minister Hun Sen (CPP).

Left in charge in Battambang, observers said, were Nam Tum, CPP's second deputy governor

in the province, and Sou Garaya, Funcinpec's third deputy governor.

The temporary sackings came a day after Ministers of Defense Tea Banh and Tea Chamrath

held a series of negotiating meetings in Battam-bang. Immediately after the meetings,

the local protagonists continued their war of words.

"While the meetings have agreed troops will withdraw back to their military

bases, I personally will not order the retreat of forces from neighboring provinces

until basic problems are solved," Kosal pledged.

Hul Savoan, the CPP military chief, blamed Funcinpec forces for military clashes,

adding that Funcinpec wanted "total power, not just shared power".

"This problem will not be resolved until the King and Prince Ranariddh leave,"

he declared.

As the four leaders were ordered back to Phnom Penh the following day, Battambang

town was abuzz with speculation over the ramifications.

Some suggested that Serey Kosal had partially won because it was the first time that

the CPP governor Ung Samy had been removed. Samy, a long-time CPP stalwart, managed

to maintain his position following the 1993 national elections despite Funcinpec

winning the most votes in Battambang.

It was unclear how much Suharto's visit had to do with the PMs' action in Battambang.

"The President is very happy with this idea," said senior CPP official

Sok An, adding that it had reassured Suharto that Cambodia would be kept stable.

But "the visit of Suharto had nothing to do with it," said Sokhun, Hun

Sen's advisor.

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