A LLEGATIONS by 10 self-proclaimed urban Khmer Rouge agents could open the way for
criminal action against opposition politician Sam Rainsy and his Khmer Nation Party
under Cambodia's law outlawing the KR, knowledgeable observers say.
In a news conference at the Phnom Penh house of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, the
10 men charged that Rainsy met with nominal KR leader Khieu Samphan before launching
the KNP and later took $2 million for the party from the rebels. They also said that
more than 16,000 KR members joined the KNP, and that KR forces were ordered to cooperate
with the KNP.
"Personally, I am looking forward to defending myself at court," said Rainsy
Nov 27, commenting publicly on the allegations after he finished a three-week stint
as a monk (see adjoining story.)
An independent political observer and a CPP official said the charges could be evidence
in a court case against Rainsy.
They compared the charges to the case of exiled Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who was
convicted in connection with an alleged plot to kill Hun Sen.
The observers also suggested that Hun Sen was sending a warning to both Rainsy and
First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh, as speculation of a KNP-Funcinpec alliance
The group of 10 alleged that before contacting Hun Sen they were visited by two men
who said they were "special secret envoys" of Ranariddh. The "envoys"
told them that the time was not right for them to defect, and that they should wait,
they alleged in a statement.
Ranariddh, at a press conference the day after the allegations were made, said: "These
men are telling lies."
He threatened to sue them for defamation.
In the press conference on Nov 16, the men described themselves as part of a 5,000-strong
"underground" KR spy network, 200 of them in Phnom Penh. They said they
wanted to defect.
The group said their work in Phnom Penh had included infiltrating other political
parties and newspapers, and forming NGOs and associations.
They also said that Rainsy had formed a group of six KR agents to protect the launch
of KNP. Each was told that they would be given $3,000 for every grenade they threw
at any police or military officers who tried to disturb the official launch. (There
was no disturbance, and no grenades were thrown).
The group provided no direct evidence of their allegations - though at a subsequent
press conference four days later they displayed a stack of KNP membership cards -
and were permitted by Hun Sen's staff to answer only a few questions from journalists.
Rainsy firmly denied the allegations against him, but did so reluctantly - he said
they were too ridiculous to respond to.
But he said he would welcome a proper judicial investigation, open to public scrutiny,
to determine whether there was any real evidence.
"Contrary to Prince Sirivudh, I am prepared to face the court. I am not running
away, I am not asking for any possible exile. I have nothing to hide, therefore I
have nothing to fear."
Rainsy said he expected support from Funcinpec if he were to be charged.
" When Sirivudh was exiled, there was not the split between the Funcinpec and
"I think more people would dare and would have an interest now in speaking their
minds than last year..."
The two leaders of the alleged KR defectors who made the allegations against Rainsy
are Sieng Sophearak and Doung Buntha, who are known in journalistic and political
circles in Phnom Penh.
Sophearak worked for the NGO ADHOC in Battambang before the elections and was asked
to resign, according to ADHOC official Aing Eng Thong, after pocketing money that
was supposed to be paid to other staff.
In 1994 he worked for the pro-KNP Voice of Khmer Youth newspaper for several months,
before being sacked for selling equipment donated to the paper by an NGO, according
to several sources at the paper.
Sophearak was one of nine people arrested in Dec 1995 on suspicion of being KR agents.
In Aug 1996 he was convicted of disinformation, a charge apparently relating to anti-government
leaflets he had circulated.
He was sentenced to eight months in jail - the time he had already served while awaiting
trial - and released.
At his trial, he strenuously proclaimed his innocence of any crime, and urged a Post
reporter to contact Amnesty International on his behalf.
The other leader of the claimed defector group, Doung Buntha, is a former Ministry
of Interior colonel. He is known to have previously been a member of Funcinpec and