Another Funcinpec Official Switching Sides

A leading Funcinpec parliamentarian will publicly declare his loyalty to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party today and detail how a prominent party member al­legedly embezzled $4 million after the 1997 factional fighting.

The announcement comes as police investigate a possible political killing, opposition parliamentarians accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of blocking an anti-corruption law, and Battambang villagers complain that local officials are restricting their access to radio broadcasts.

Parliamentarian Sam Raingsek said Monday he has documented proof linking former industry minister Pou Sothirak to an embezzlement scam that plundered Funcinpec coffers.

“I am going to reveal a big corruption that one party member embezzled from the party fund,” said Sam Raingsek, who is expected to cite corruption as his reason for defecting from Fun­cinpec today.

Pou Sothirak, who is currently vying for a parliamentary seat in Siem Reap province, left Funcin­pec before the 1998 election and has since returned to the party.

He denied the charge Monday but said orders from “higher up” prevented him from fully defending himself. Pou Sothirak said he would sue Sam Raingsek after the July 27 general elections.

Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the death of a 35-year-old CPP activist killed Sun­day night by two men in military police uniforms and riding a motorbike, said Chup Sokheng, the deputy police chief of Dang­kao district.

Mom Piseth was returning from a party to his home in Cheung Ek commune when he was shot four times at about      8:30 pm, Chup Sokheng said. The killing is under investigation as a possible political killing.

“We can’t say this case was involved with political intimidation,” Chup Sokheng said. “Let us investigate more about this.”

No arrests had been made Monday night. The gunmen were believed to have fled into Kandal Stung district, Kandal province, police said.

Also on Monday, a coalition of Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party leaders urged Hun Sen to ap­prove a long-delayed anti-corruption law.

The bill, drafted in 1998, is modeled after similar laws in other Asian countries and would establish an independent council to investigate individual corruption cases. Violations would carry heavy fines.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian and supporter of the proposed law, said the CPP-led government will continue to avoid the bill in its own self-interest.

“It is a corrupt government…. They don’t want to pass the law. When they are corrupt, they can use the money to keep their power,” Son Chhay said.

Under pressure from donor countries, Hun Sen has said he is committed to passing the law before the conclusion of his current five-year term.

The bill has the approval of the Council of Ministers and is ready for the National Assemby’s consideration, said Prum Nheam Vichet, a spokesman for the council.

“We are now very busy, but the [bill] definitely will be passed to the National Assembly in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s mandate,” he said. Prum Nheam Vichet denied that the government had slowed the bill’s passing.

Also Monday, at least two villagers in Battambang province reported that authorities warned them against listening to overseas radio broadcasts of “exaggerated” news.

At a meeting of about 200 people in Chamkar Samroang commune, officials handed out 5,000 riel notes, hats and T-shirts while requesting that the villagers tune out international radio, villagers reported.

“Please don’t listen to [Voice of America] or Radio Free Asia because they have exaggerated the news,” a 35-year-old villager cited a commune official as saying. “They accuse our CPP of being corrupt, but CPP is clean.”

Battambang officials on Mon­day denied the charge.

“No one is warned not to listen to such radios. We completely have no such policy,” said Bat­tam­bang Second Deputy Gover­nor Pa Socheatevong.

In an effort to fight media restrictions, the Center for Social Development said it will host public forums featuring candidates in 24 provinces and municipalities.

The forums will begin June 27 and continue until July 14, center President Chea Vannath said Monday. The center will also publish free voter guides outlining the platforms of the 23 parties competing in the July 27 elections, she said.

NEC officials have reviewed and approved the voter guides, NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said.

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun and Saing Soenthrith)

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