Cambodian Gov’t Says Coup Is Internal Matter

The bloodless coup in Bangkok is an internal matter for the Thai government, government spokes­man and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Wednes­day, adding that the military takeover will not cause instability in Cambodia.

“We are not issuing a travel warning to Cambodians because the situation seems calm, but we are monitoring it very closely,” Khieu Kanharith said.

“The situation in Cambodia is quite stable,” he said, adding that it is up to the Thai government to resolve the situation peacefully.

Defense Minister Tea Banh said that while the military have overthrown Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Cam­bodian military remains united behind the government.

“There will never be such a coup in Cambodia because we do not have such deep social rifts as in Thailand,” he maintained.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, who Prime Minister Hun Sen accused in recent days of plotting a constitutional coup by calling for the government to be dissolved, said his fledgling Sangkum Ja­tiniyum Front Party is not planning a coup.

“I understand there is no coup going to occur…. My party is only a soul with no hands or legs,” he said, adding: “Any bloodshed would not benefit Khmers.”

Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan said he was hopeful the coup will serve Thailand’s best interests.

“A way out of the deadlock in Thailand is good even if it is not democratic,” he said. “Some­times, democracy could be suspended for a while to pave the way for a better solution.”

In Cambodia, however, such events could not occur because the armed forces belong to the government, he said.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay, who was the party’s military commander in July 1997, when forces loyal to then-second prime minister Hun Sen routed troops loyal to then first prime minister prince Norodom Ranariddh, said no such upheaval would ever happen again.

“There are no problems in Cambodia, we have peace,” he said.

But the events in Bangkok should serve as a lesson for Hun Sen, said Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“If something is of great concern to the people, the leader should pay attention,” he said.

“In Cambodia, there are a lot of land disputes. Eighty percent of Cambodians are farmers and when they have problems with their land, this is very serious,” he added.

The Thai army was able to carry out its coup in part because it had the support of Bangkok residents fed up with Thaksin and the repeated allegations of corruption leveled against him and his family.

Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district was a battlefield during the 1997 fighting and businessmen there said on Wednesday that in the nine years since, they have been nervous whenever they hear of squabbling among Cambodian politicians.

Motorbike vendor Suong Sokhay, 36, said soldiers and civilians stole more than 300 bikes from his shop during the 1997 battles when troops and tanks took to the streets.

“Four times since then, especially during elections, I have taken precautions and moved my [motorbikes] to my house,” he said.

“Coups are bad for business, we lost a lot of money.”

Lei Veasna, 30, a motorbike salesman who lost 20 bikes to looters in 1997, said a Cambodian coup was very different from the current coup in Bangkok.

“When they have a coup here, people get killed,” he said.            

(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)




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