Events Won’t Hurt Government Coalition, Officials Say

Senior Funcinpec and CPP officials said Tuesday the coalition government is still solid despite the recent raid on the home of senior Funcinpec official Nhiek Bun Chhay—which some party members believe was an act of intimidation.

Co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath (Fun) said Tuesday it was too early in the investigation to speculate if there was a political motive for the Sept 13 robbery and beating of the wife of Senate Second Vice Pres­ident Nhiek Bun Chhay. But he said the incident would not undermine the coalition.

“I don’t think the coalition is in trouble,” said Sisowath Sirirath. “The coalition is doing well. The international community has high praise for the collaboration between the two parties.”

Responding to claims the attack may have been politically motivated to intimidate Fun­cin­pec members, Prince Sirirath added: “Neither side would benefit from a division in the coalition.”

Prince Norodom Ranariddh also claimed Tuesday a rift in the coalition was unlikely. “I do not believe it is in the interest of anyone to split the two parties of the coalition,” the prince said.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, who led the Funcinpec resistance following the factional fighting of July 1997, complained to top government officials in a letter obtained Monday that his house had been ransacked by 10 armed men and his wife beaten. He claimed the uniformed men entered his house on the pretext of searching for weapons.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith (CPP) also said Tuesday that it would be “very bad to politicize this issue.”

“We must work to keep the country stabilized and develop a good climate for international investment,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith said the robbery and beating might have been orchestrated by “bad elements” intent on creating trouble for the government partners.

The CPP is not intent on creating tension, Khieu Kanharith said, adding that he would contact Nhiek Bun Chhay personally to talk about the incident.

Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said Tuesday that the incident is an issue of law and order, not politics, and it is the duty of the government to provide protection to one of its members.

“We do not want to call him Funcinpec or CPP….Nhiek Bun Chhay is the second deputy president of the Senate. We want to provide security for him,” Om Yentieng said. “The Ministry of Interior will start by verifying if this is true and then they will move onto the second step of the investigation.”

He said Hun Sen was aware of the allegations.

Ex-Funcinpec military commander Serey Kosal said Tuesday that party members have decided the raid on Nhiek Bun Chhay’s house was worrying but not a threat to national reconciliation.

“Normally he [Nhiek Bun Chhay] would be angry,” Serey Kosal said. “[But] we must must think about the bigger problems of the country. To think of the interests of the country we must be quiet…. If we protest this raid people will be afraid and the opposition can exploit this politically. We must remain calm.”

Nhiek Bun Chhay reportedly told The Associated Press that his wife was hospitalized in Bangkok after the attack. The armed men stole jewelry and cash before leaving, according to his letter.

In his statement, Nhiek Bun Chhay also said the incident was an act of intimidation against his family and his immunity as a Senate member.

However, co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh (CPP) on Monday questioned why then Nhiek Bun Chhay had not reported the armed raid earlier to authorities.

Prince Sirirath said Tuesday the attack was initially hushed up to prevent a panic among party followers.

“He [Nhiek Bun Chhay] wanted to request to the Prince on how to proceed and not let the news get out of hand…,” Prince Sirirath said.

Fears of political intimidation against Funcinpec members heightened recently when four Funcinpec generals and a colonel were ordered by the army to appear for questioning over last year’s alleged assassination attempt on Prime Minister Hun Sen in Siem Reap. The men have denied they had a role in the rocket attack.

General Mol Roeup, director of intelligence for RCAF, said in a statement Tuesday no charges have been brought against the five and it is standard procedure to call RCAF soldiers in for questioning.

According to Mol Roeup, military headquarters received information the five were seen in Banteay Meanchey province meeting with a known suspect in the attack.



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