CO-MINISTER of Interior Sar Kheng has accused a "political party" of supporting
a "terrorist group" responsible for kidnappings and torture in the north
western province of Banteay Meanchey.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital on May11, Kheng said:"We know
for sure that this group was supported by a political party, whom I will not name.
On April 8, [police] destroyed a kidnapping group in Banteay Meanchey, arresting
eight people and seizing 33 weapons... This kidnapping group definitely had the characteristics
of terrorists... They kidnapped people for ransom, holding them in a secret place.
If the ransom was paid quickly, the victim was released quickly. If it was slow they
would torture the victim."
BLDP Member of Parliament Ley Khek told United Press International (UPI) he had written
to the Ministry of Interior about rapes, gambling, killings and robberies which were
'out of control' in the province and complained about the lack of action taken by
authorities to curb the problems. He said, however, he had received no reply to date.
In addition, provincial sources told UPI they believed Funcinpec Governor Duong Khem
had been transferred from his position saying he had not been seen in the province
for 'several weeks' and that his provincial residence had been "cleared"
some weeks ago.
Another local source told UPI they believed the Governor had been transferred because
he had set up an 'unofficial investigation squad' that had created "problems"
in the province.
But Ly Touch, head of Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh's cabinet, said no
reshuffling of provincial governors was being contemplated in the "present political
climate" and reports that Duong Khem had been transferred were "unconfirmed
Ly Thuch also denied "absolutely" any Funcinpec involvement in kidnappings
or other crimes.
Meanwhile, a senior CPP source has linked the gang to a high ranking Funcinpec official
in Phnom Penh.
"We are now in possession of clear evidence because we interrogated those elements
The source said a senior Funcinpec government official, along with the Banteay Meanchey
governor were strongly implicated, adding that among eight people arrested for kidnapping
in Banteay Meanchey, at least two were government employees recently appointed by
the Funcinpec official.
The Phnom Penh official was also accused of distributing weapons to "uncontrolled
elements" in Kompong Chhnang province.
The source claimed police had recovered firearms with the same serial numbers as
those removed from a government arms store.
Other sources confirm that CPP leader and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has alleged
that Funcinpec military or police commanders are stockpiling or distributing weapons.
Hun Sen has publicly accused five Funcinpec officials of plotting a coup. He is understood
to have sought the arrest of at least one of the alleged offenders.
Sar Kheng's press conference statements came as tensions appeared to be easing, at
least publicly, within the coalition.
In a May 26 speech, Kheng had called for cooperation and negotiations between Funcinpec
and CPP to settle the political crisis and avert any military clashes.
Co-Prime Ministers Hun Sen and Ranarridh met - for the first time since March - at
the June 1 inauguration of Wat Than, which also marked the end of Maha Ghosananda's
peace march. CPP president Chea Sim, who had also previously called for calm, also
Neither Hun Sen nor Chea Sim spoke to journalists at the event, but Ranariddh proclaimed
that it had been a show of unity "for the sake of national reconciliation."
Meanwhile, in an apparent compromise between Funcinpec and CPP, the thorny issue
of dual nationality has been removed from the legislative agenda, at least temporarily.
An Assembly commission considering the nationality law decided last week - after
a visit from Sar Kheng and co-Interior Minister You Hockry - not to include a provision
on dual nationality in the law.
Earlier, in a move publicly supported by Hun Sen, the commission debated introducing
a provision barring senior civil servants and MPs from holding both Khmer and foreign
Sources said Hun Sen had endorsed Kheng and Hockry's suggestion that consideration
of the issue of dual nationality be postponed. Kheng proposed that the matter be
included in civil service regulations or the yet-to-be-passed electoral law - which
will determine who can stand in the next elections.
Political observers and MPs said the issue had apparently been put to one side, but
nevertheless could be raised again by Hun Sen at any time.