Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The tears and the fears: Pailin hosts Hun Sen

The tears and the fears: Pailin hosts Hun Sen

The tears and the fears: Pailin hosts Hun Sen

S ECOND Premier Hun Sen's historic visit to the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin

was more a demonstration of power than trust, say political observers.

His visit revealed the differences between the actors in this peculiarly Cambodian

peace process. It is increasingly apparent that at least one of the factions will

be forced to pliancy to guarantee the peace that their followers have been promised

and plainly want.

CPP leader Hun Sen, in a four-star RCAF uniform, went to Pailin as a soldier,

not as a statesman, and "to see the people." Hun Sen and Pailin supremo

Ee Chhean - each protected by 400 or more of their most trusted, heavily-armed troops

- traded speeches: Chhean demanding land rights for his people who have withstood

mines, malaria and resistance from government offensives; and Hun Sen "solemnly

assuring" this would be so.

Sen, analysts say, wanted to show he is Phnom Penh's powerbroker. He gave Chhean

and Malai leader Sok Pheap diplomatic passports, and promised to build schools and

roads in Pailin and Malai. CPP sources say Sen is prepared to let soldiers, police,

village and commune leaders all to keep their jobs and guns, and possibly give Chhean

and Pheap generalships within RCAF.

"A peaceful opportunity is now available, so go now and take care of your livelihood,

your crops," he told a crowd of some 3,500 crammed into Kaong Kang pagoda. They


On the Prime Minister's shoulder was reputedly Cambodia's richest man, Teng Boon

Ma, who sources say is channeling his support - as are most embassies and aid donors

- more and more toward Hun Sen. "You deal with the one who has power,"

said one diplomat in Phnom Penh.

Boon Ma's presence, and the reported rash of timber and gem contracts signed by CPP

officials with Thai and Pailin businesses, was a clear sign to Pailin that economic

power, as well as political and military clout, came to town on Hun Sen's Mi-26 helicopter

(a gift from Boon Ma).

Hun Sen's strategy is to use his own resources, and those of the international community,

to gain road access to the Pailin. Once there, analysts say, it would be difficult

for the former Khmer Rouge to resist an in-tegration based largely on Hun Sen's terms.

The floodgates have already inched open.

International aid agencies are privately saying that they are receiving pressure

to work in the area - and most of it seems to be geared toward ensuring safer access

to Pailin. "[US ambassador] Kenneth Quinn has said the US is interested in helping

us rebuild the road," said one CPP source. "And we have urged the Cambodian

Mines Action Center to go and demine there.

"We need to push communications and road-building... then we will have the possibility

of organizing the administration there," he said.

"[The president of the breakaway Democratic National Unity Movement (DNUM)]

Ieng Sary will try to take advantage of this time before the road is built,"

the source said.

CPP is also thinking that once the integration process starts, the Pailin populace

will effectively dictate its pace "and won't wait for Ieng Sary."

Pailin will not be "independent," CPP sources say.

However, CPP's idea of "integrating" the former Khmer Rouge with the government,

compared to the idea of a "union" as envisaged by Chhean, Pheap and Sary,

are oceans apart.

Sary, on Oct 26, four days after Sen had left Pailin, faxed to Phnom Penh an estimate

of DNUM's strength: 30,000 soldiers and 300,000 civilians. "These figures are

an exaggeration but in this way [DNUM] can ask for a union rather than integration,"

said a CPP source.

"Integration means they are entering into our governmental organization,"

he explained. "Union means that they want to do something else... which is impossible

under the Constitution.

"We want an integration like that led by Keo Pong...," he said.

But DNUM won't do that willingly.

"We do not accept the kind of defection like Keo Pong's," Sary's personal

secretary Long Norin told the Post.

Pong - who defected in March from Chhean's forces in Phnom Oral and who has since

spearheaded CPP's negotiations - "submitted" to the government, Pailin

maintains. The intimation is that Pong weakened DNUM's bargaining position, and had

been bought out to do so.

In Pailin, Pong is described as a "bastard" and more. The contempt of his

former comrades is undisguised.

However, his is the model of integration the CPP are holding up as a precedent. It

plainly won't wash with Pailin.

Undermining this situation further are the independent talks between DNUM and Funcinpec

- headed by General Nhek Bun Chhay and cemented by Prince Norodom Ranariddh's "secret"

trip to Pailin the previous week. Hun Sen only knew that Ranariddh was leaving when

the latter was already 15 minutes out of Phnom Penh in a helicopter, sources say.

DNUM, courted for now by both political factions in Phnom Penh, have an interest

in boosting their own numbers. As Chhean showed in early October when he took the

key southern town of Samlot, DNUM can see its sphere of influence extending from

Koh Kong to, eventually, Anlong Veng, observers say.

In addition, Ranariddh, according to CPP, has promised high positions within RCAF

to Chhean and Pheap should their troop numbers equal that of, specifically, Bun Chhay's.

"Impossible," said the CPP source, that Chhean and Pheap could have positions

as high as deputy chiefs of staff. "Ranariddh has 50 per cent of the power.

He should not go above that 50 per cent."

Analysts are now comparing three "kinds" of Khmer Rouge defections: Pong,

who went to the CPP; Bun Chhay's uncle, Prum Sue, who some say was given a long leash

by Pailin to test what Funcinpec can provide; and the Sary-Chhean-Pheap clique.

Sue has already written to the Khmer Institute of Democracy (KID) in Phnom Penh to

provide human rights training to 2,800 of Sue's civilian officials and soldiers.

KID director Dr. Lao Mong Hay said he was delighted with the unexpected requested,

and had approved it in principle.

"And Ieng Sary is a wily old fox," said one Phnom Penh diplomat. "He

was the one at the airfield ready to meet Hun Sen." The diplomat likened Sary

as the trainer or manager of Chhean the prize fighter. CPP also recognize Sary as

being politically important.

Sary's analysis must be deeper than his son Vuth's, who asked foreign military attachés

interviewing him: "You tell me, do we [join the government] fast, or slow?"

Chhean in his speech had no doubt: "A permanent peace... can only be achieved

minutely and cautiously," he said. If the task was done hurriedly, "clashes

will surely occur which may lead to the war again," he warned.

The two imponderables to the Cambodian peace equation are King Norodom Sihanouk,

who is reportedly still uneasy with his hands-off role, and whoever will take control

in Bangkok after next month's elections. General Chavalit Yong-chaiyudh, one of the

leading Thai Prime Ministerial contenders, has a long and chequered history with

Cambodia. Speculation is mounting as to how a Chavalit administration will treat

each Cambodian faction.

It will likely be Bangkok too that dictates the future of the KR hardliners now camped

in Anlong Veng. They're unlikely to long survive a Thai leader hostile, or at best

ambivalent, toward them.

One thing is for sure: Sek Ray won't have a say.

But the 58-year old Pailin resident, who lost a son and a husband in the war, spoke

the loudest when Hun Sen visited her town.

Near the stage, with her three daughters waiting for his arrival, she blurted out:

"There he is. I can see him," as Hun Sen neared.

Then she burst into tears. She wrapped her krama around her face, and mumbled just

one word through heaving sobs: "Happy."


  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Angkor Beer, 30 Years of Prestige and Still Counting

    Let’s celebrate 30 years of prestige with Angkor Beer. In this 2022, Angkor Beer is 30 years old and has been staying with Cambodian hearts in all circumstances. Head of core beer portfolio, EmYuthousaid, “We have been with Cambodians for three decades now. We, ANGKOR Beer, pride

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,