Co-Interior Minister Sar Kheng denied being involved in the July 2 coup plot
during his first-ever interview with a foreign journalist. The rising star of
the CPP claimed the plotters aimed to give power to the King. Sar Kheng spoke to
Deputy Prime Minister and Co-Interior Minister
Sar Kheng has emerged in recent years as one of the most powerful members of the
government and a rising star in Cambodia's future political landscape.
has held a series of important posts within the Cambodian People's Party,
including the head of the powerful CPP organization portfolio, responsible for
approving appointments of all party positions. Therefore thousands of people owe
him their jobs.
Since the UN-sponsored elections, he has successfully
recruited a number of intellectuals and technocrats as advisors, and has made an
effort to grasp the new era of foreign relations and the post-Cold War scenario
in order to expand his ability to operate as a statesman.
aftermath of the coup, rumors have swirled through the capital of his
On July 5, in his first interview ever with a foreign
journalist, Sar Kheng addressed this and other issues:
On his role in
suppressing the coup attempt.
I first received information on the
coup around 6 pm on Saturday July 2. Once I was told about the attempted coup I
coordinated the efforts of the joint authorities, especially the Royal Army,
under the direct command of Samdech Hun Sen.
Since we received
information on the attempted coup, along with [Co-Secretaries of State of the
Interior] Sin Sen and Kien Van, also along with the Co-Ministers of the national
Defense Ministry, as well as the chief of the general staff of the royal army,
we coordinated efforts to stop the coup until 5:30 am on Sunday, July
Under the direct command of the Second Prime Minister I ordered our
troops to counter and asked them [the rebel troops from Prey Veng] to go back to
their barracks. There were no other forces around the men, around the capital,
there were no forces at all, and so, as you might be aware, there was no
bloodshed, no exchange of fire and no use of force.
On the objective
and leaders of the coup plot.
They tried to arrest three
generals-Kreuch Yeum, Pan Thai, and Nyek Bun Chhay. The one to give this order
was General Sin Song. This is according to one general working under Gen Sin
Song and receiving orders directly from him. The objective of the coup authors
we don't know clearly. It is still under investigation. So far, we have arrested
only Gen Sin Song as the author of the coup.
According to what we have
intercepted from phone conversations, and other people, Chakrapong was involved
in the coup and his objective was to give power to the King.
allegations he was involved in the plot.
So far I have heard rumors
and speculation that the coup was initiated by the CPP. With you now, I want to
strongly deny these rumors. It has nothing to do with the CPP. We should not
interpret or speculate about this until the deliberations of the special
committee come out.
Really, I would like to know on what grounds they are
based. I can tell you that I am not directly or indirectly involved whatsoever
in this coup attempt.
But even with all this I have one thing to say. I
only knew about this event after it happened. As Minister of Interior, I should
have known before. I was not in control until after.
I have thought a lot
about this. I take responsibility and there will be reorganization to control
the situation in the future. The lesson I draw from this failed coup is I should
reorganize some departments in my Ministry so I can control the situation better
in the future.
Why did Hun Sen know at 1 pm about the coup attempt and
you, as Minister of Interior, not until 6 pm?
Well on the afternoon
on Saturday I was working as usual at my office receiving foreign guests. As I
told you I didn't know until 6 pm. The Second Prime Minister, didn't know until
3 pm, according to my information.
Well, even if Hun Sen didn't know
until 3 pm, why did it take the PM three hours to inform the Interior Minister
of a coup attempt underway?
Well the explanation may be that I cut off my
phone and usually don't work on Saturday afternoon. Even You Hokry knew only at
5 pm. I got a message from Samdech Hun Sen only when I came back to my house.
Sin Sen did not know until 5:30 pm.
Will there be more
Well, you know, if there will be more arrests in the coming
days it is up to the result of the investigation. You are right to say there
should be someone more powerful, powerful enough to launch a coup involved. But
they [Sin Song and Prince Chakrapong] before launched a secession. General Sin
Song commanded the Ministry of National Security for ten years. They know very
well how to launch a coup. They were commanders. But remember, the police forces
amount to 40,000 men. He got only two hundred. Not very
There are allegations that you have met Sin Song recently
and discussed the possibility of a coup.
In the past I already have
met Sin Song many times, not only recently. Once again I assure you that I have
never talked to Sin Song about the issue of a coup.
I want to just say
lastly that there are a lot of rumors, groundless, without any real facts. I
think they were intentionally created by a group of people to create divisions
among the politicians, among the people, among the leaders.
On how the
investigation will be conducted.
So the second Prime Minister just
appointed a special committee comprised of the Co-Ministers of Defense and the
Co-Ministers of Interior to conduct an investigation to find the real authors of
the coup and who are their accomplices.
This special committee will ask a
certain number of personalities - civilian and military alike - to come - like a
hearing. After the hearing process, we might know well what will happen
I just would like to give you one short remark. We were a little
late about the coup, but we quickly reacted to get the situation under control.
The coup now has been killed.
On the involvement of the Interior
You are right to know we got information about the
crossing [of armored vehicles and rebel troops at Neak Luong ferry] very late.
But I give firm assurance that the Ministry of Interior did not give any order
to allow the soldiers to cross the river.
This is to confirm to you there
was no permission from the Ministry of Interior. It was decided from the east of
the river. We have issued arrest warrants for three men, generals, who gave the
order from Prey Veng.
The [rebel] forces of course belonged to the
Ministry of Interior. But, as you are aware, Gen Sin Song was Minister of
National Security for ten years so he still may have more or less
On the status of Finance Minister Sam Rainsy and Foreign
Minister Prince Norodom Sirivuddh.
I have listened to international
and national politicians who tell me that around the world there is no
government where a minister can make remarks or conduct a policy against his
government. But Cambodia is complex and that is why the solution to the problem
Well, this afternoon we should debate the issue of outlawing
the Khmer Rouge at the National Assembly and other issues of difference of
policies of some ministers and their prime ministers.
But I think we have
to find a solution very soon. I don't know the solution but there are two
options: Either the government changes to adopt the policy of a minority or the
minority must leave the government. And I don't think that the goernment should
change its policy.
On the consequences of the coup.
think, like it or not, we will have, more or less, some consequences as a result
of this coup. But recall that the government has already passed through bigger
problems, or as big. We survived then. We solved them. We can survive this. We
will continue to solve the problem of national reconstruction and attract