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Prince is both hero and villain

Prince is both hero and villain

P

RINCE Norodom Chakrapong served as deputy Prime Minister of the government of

the State of Cambodia in effective power until the UN held elections in May

1993.

He held a number of other important government portfolios during

this period, including director of Civil Aviation. He was also a member of the

standing committee of the Cambodian People's Party, a position which he

retains.

He fought during the 14-year-war prior to the Paris Peace

Agreements with the guerrilla Armee´ National Kampuchea Independent (ANKI) , the

armed wing of the Royalist Funcinpec party. As head of the Royal Guard division,

he was always at odds with Ranariddh - the guerrilla forces overall commander in

chief.

But he retained a reputation of considerable loyalty among his

troops, who say he always provided them with good material and other support and

remained in the field during times when many other guerrilla commanders were

accused of living a more comfortable life in Thailand away from the hardships in

the jungle.

 

After a final break with Ranariddh, he defected to his former battlefield

enemies in October 1991. He immediately assumed a high profile during the

election campaign, traveling extensively and appearing on state television

almost nightly to promote the CPP cause. He is the son of King Sihanouk and the

half brother - and very public nemesis - of First Prime Minister Norodom

Ranariddh.

Immediately after his party lost the UN organized elections

Prince Chakrapong, along with CPP interior minister Sin Song, led an ill fated

secession movement, declaring seven eastern provinces an "autonomous zone" in

protest of the election results. Thousands, including Untac officials and

opposition supporters fled in fear.

After a tense standoff for several days, the secession attempt collapsed and

its leaders fled to exile in Vietnam. Opposition party officials and human

rights activists contend that a number of opposition party workers were killed.

While it can be viewed that his secession movement ended in failure

after failing to mobilize any grassroots support among the citizens of the

affected provinces, it can also be argued that without the putsch, the CPP would

have had to settle for a much smaller hold on real state power.

Both

Prince Chakrapong and Sin Song are widely viewed as near heroes within some

senior CPP circles for what they consider their role in forcing a power sharing

agreement in the aftermath of the elections that allowed the CPP to retain a

lion's share of the power in the current government, despite coming second in

the elections.

He is, in turn, widely despised by senior members of

Funcinpec who view him as corrupt, as traitorous for his defection, and culpable

for the deaths of Funcinpec party members.

Prince Chakrapong has assumed

a low profile since the seccession bid, but looks increasingly likely, along

with Sin Song to be given a seat in the National Assembly despite bitter

opposition from the CPP's coalition partners which has paralysed parliamentry

business.

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