The residence of a senior Funcinpec official who led the resistance army against CPP forces from 1997-98 was recently ransacked and his wife beaten, according to a letter sent to top government officials by the victim.
Nhiek Bun Chhay, who fled Phnom Penh during factional fighting in July 1997, received a royal pardon and is now the second vice president of the Senate, maintained the Sept 13 raid was not robbery but intimidation.
He wrote that the 10 armed men who entered his home were searching for weapons, according to the Sept 20 letter, obtained Monday. “The acts of those armed men to my family could not be considered robbery as they searched for arms only. I acknowledge that this case intimidated my family’s safety as well as my immunity as the Senate member,” Nhiek Bun Chhay wrote to King Norodom Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Interior Ministry, the Senate, and the National Assembly.
“During the incident, the armed men pointed guns at all family members. They beat my wife seriously and threatened she would be killed. They stayed for 10 minutes looking for hidden weapons and during that time one of them snatched my wife’s purse which contained cash and some jewelry,” he reported.
Arriving at Pochentong Airport on Monday, Nhiek Bun Chhay—who was in Australia at the time of the alleged incident—appeared to play down the significance of the assault and robbery.
“I can’t say anything for sure as I was not around at the time. I just sent the [report] to the Interior Ministry for investigation,” said Nhiek Bun Chhay, who added that his wife has recovered.
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh also returned Monday and said it remained unclear if the attack was politically motivated. “I can only say that those that broke in were not robbers but a group of uniformed men,” the prince said at the airport. “They took some cash and assaulted Nhiek Bun Chhay’s wife and his bodyguards.”
The prince called for the arrest of the perpetrators. “They must conduct an investigation to find the person responsible for this act,” he said. “We must punish those who violate the state law.”
Serey Kosal, another ex-Funcinpec military commander who is now a security adviser for the party, on Monday described the attack as an act of intimidation.
The revelations of the raid at Nhiek Bun Chhay’s house come as five Funcinpec generals in the northwest have also alleged political intimidation. But Defense co-Minister Tea Banh, a CPP standing committee member, said he did not believe the assertions of Nhiek Bun Chhay.
“It’s almost the end of the month. Why didn’t he report it to the competent authorities? The authorities are looking for the law breakers….you can imagine why he didn’t report it,” Tea Banh said by telephone Monday.
Other CPP officials, including Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith and Om Sarith, an aide to Senate President Chea Sim, said Monday that they were not aware of the raid.
Nhiek Bun Chhay’s wife said by statement that five family members were held at gunpoint at approximately 2 am while soldiers searched the house before stealing a purse containing $500 cash and jewelry worth $4,500.
“The group broke into the house and pointed guns to family members,” Som Sopheap said in a statement. “After the armed group pointed guns to all of us on the ground floor, they broke all room doors on the upper floors and finally my room. They caught me around the neck, beat and threatened to kill me.” Sam Rainsy, parliamentary opposition leader, said Monday that the CPP security apparatus is attempting to smother prominent Funcinpec police and military officials.
“There are some people the CPP cannot stand because they could be the backbone of a counter power,” Sam Rainsy said. “[They] are intent on getting rid of those people and establishing a boneless Funcinpec, a force unable to oppose them.”
(Additional reporting Kelly McEvers)