The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) is abusing its powers,
behaving in a colonial manner and is committing acts similar to those committed under
Pol Pot's rule, State of Cambodia (SOC) Foreign Minister Hor Namhong stated last
Namhong was echoing remarks made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a letter to UNTAC chief
Yasushi Akashi complaining about the behavior of a U.N. investigation team in Kompong
Cham province. Copies of the letter were also sent to U.N. Secretary General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali and Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
Hun Sen charged that the team led by UNTAC's John Ryan "accused the SOC authorities
of having allegedly committed 80 to 90 percent of the total acts of violence and
made the further accusation that most violence occurred in Kompong Cham province."
Hun Sen stated the team had arrived in the Banteay and Tbaung Khum districts on Mar.
15 and 16 respectively and committed the "gross violation" of searching
SOC premises and detaining officials for several hours.
"The case [of] UNTAC officials [who] gathered the officials, made an unwarranted
search and forbade them to leave for many hours, constitutes a disgusting act which
reminded me of those committed by the Pol Pot regime," he said.
Hor Namhong said he had no idea why UNTAC raided the SOC offices and said that the
team had given no explanation for their presence.
Ryan declined to respond to the SOC accusations and refused to reveal the purpose
of his team's mission.
But U.N. spokesman Eric Berman said UNTAC had dispatched a team to Tbaung Khum to
investigate the alleged kidnapping and murder of Hou Leang Bann, an active member
of the FUNCINPEC party.
FUNCINPEC said Bann had been called to a meeting at the SOC district office on Mar.
3. Seven days later, UNTAC police found his body, which Berman described as "badly
beaten" in a nearby well.
"The body of the victim was enveloped in a sack and showed signs of been cruelly
tortured: the eyes had been gouged out, fingernails had been pulled off, the head
was clearly injured and two bullet wounds were visible in the legs," a statement
from the royalist faction said.
While Hun Sen accused UNTAC of acting in a Pol Pot like manner, FUNCINPEC made the
same accusation but directed it at Hun Sen's faction.
"Only the authorities of the 'State of Cambodia', which is headed by former
members of the Khmer Rouge are capable of such acts of political violence bringing
to mind the ominous reign of Pol Pot," the statement said.
Berman said that the investigation team was expected to issue its report within a
matter of days and he declined to comment on Hun Sen's accusations.
But other U.N. officials stated that SOC had been coming up with a series of "wild
accusations and complaints" ever since they had become the main target of the
U.N.'s newly boosted powers of arrest, detention and prosecution.
Prior to the introduction of these special powers, officials noted low morale among
the investigation teams. Many CivPol officers complained that their efforts came
to nothing and there was rarely any follow up even in the most cut and dried cases.
This, changed however,when UNTAC was forced to respond to the escalation in political
violence, which was undermining the whole peace process, and the subsequent threats
of non-cooperation voiced by Sihanouk.
The majority of the incidents of politically-motivated violence were attributed to
SOC officials. In the most recent case, UNTAC issued warrants for the arrest of seven
CPAF soldiers in Battambang on suspicion of the murder of four FUNCINPEC officials.
With plenty of advance publicity, the soldiers had fled their camp when UNTAC arrived
with the warrants.
Namhong, however, complained about the U.N.'s use of its powers to search several
generals' houses. "Searching private homes is a violation of human rights, the
Paris Agreements and the law," he said.
Spurred on by the Battambang events, SOC lawyers had started to question the legality
of UNTAC's special powers of arrest, prosecution and detention. And SOC recently
tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to prevent the Supreme National Council from adopting
Akashi's proposal to amend Cambodia's criminal code to ratify the special powers.
It marked the first the SNC had overruled SOC. Previously, the Khmer Rouge had been
the only faction to have its objections dismissed.
These two SOC moves have been interpreted by a number of Western and opposition faction
sources as an attempt to erect a defence to protect themselves from what appears
to be a new vigorous UNTAC determination to exercise their powers in the crucial
fight against political crime.
"SOC have got off pretty lightly so far. But they're getting bruised and they
are feeling angry that the DK are not so consistently being portrayed as the bad
guys," a U.N. official commented.
He went on to say that some SOC members, such as Hor Namhong, may have a genuine
grievance and may actually feel that UNTAC is overstepping its mandate by the manner
in which it pursues cases. As the Battambang case highlighted, UNTAC has found itself
in a legal grey zone by being forced to work outside the administrative structures
in its efforts to bring suspects to justice.
SOC said it refused to participate with UNTAC in that case because UNTAC had declined
to initially participate with them. Before assisting UNTAC in executing the warrants,
SOC wanted to see all the evidence to assess whether the prosecution could be justified,
SOC spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.
But the U.N. spokesman said the SOC authorities could not be trusted with vital evidence
such as witnesses' statements. He said they had doubts that SOC would use such evidence
for "good purposes."
There were fears for the safety and lives of the witnesses, the U.N.spokesman confirmed.
FUNCINPEC's Sam Rainsy, echoing party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh's remarks,
claimed that orders for political assassinations, if they did not necessarily come
from the usual official SOC channels, still possibly emanated from some of the highest
authorities. These authorities constitute what Rainsy called the "parallel SOC
Some UNTAC sources give credence to this view. "Some SOC officials feel the
heat is getting to them, the consequences of their actions are catching up with them,"
Another official was more blunt. "They're worried, of course they're worried,
that's why they are raising all these objections and allegations about investigations.
Half the leaders are bloody criminals. They know they could be next," he said.