Former Sam Rainsy Party loyalists were responsible for Sunday’s anti-opposition demonstrations that left the party head’s Phnom Penh house vandalized and the 1997 grenade attack monument ruined, city officials and Rainsy party members said.
Ex-Sam Rainsy Party director of information Pen Vano and provincial party bosses Neang Sean and Chan Samnang organized the protests that damaged property, but did not cause any injuries, according to opposition party officials.
Sok Pheng, a lawyer for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, filed complaints in municipal court on Tuesday against the three men, asking that they be arrested, apparently for vandalism.
Rocks were tossed through several windows of Sam Rainsy’s house on Street 240 while tires were burned outside, and the concrete memorial stupa in front of the National Assembly honoring victims of the 1997 grenade attack was reduced to rubble. The incidents were the most violent public actions aimed at the opposition since late 1998.
Chan Sokunthea, an aide to Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara, said Wednesday that municipal officials and the police had filed incident reports implicating former members of the Sam Rainsy Party in the violence, though he did not identify suspects by name.
“This was an internal [party] conflict,” Chan Sokunthea said.
Sam Rainsy initially claimed that former supporters were not responsible for Sunday’s destructive rally. But party members on Wednesday said they saw Neang Sean and Chan Samnang outside Sam Rainsy’s residence on Sunday. Pen Vano is believed to have ordered the anti-opposition protest, Sok Pheng said Wednesday. Witnesses said up to 100 people participated.
According to one of the two court complaints, Pen Vano is linked in press reports to the demonstrators, though no clear evidence has emerged placing him at Sunday’s protest.
Neang Sean and Chan Samnang have been named in the second of Sok Pheng’s complaints as directing these acts of vandalism.
None of the three former Rainsy Party members could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Sok Pheng claimed Wednesday that those involved in last Sunday’s incidents were paid by the government, in an effort to use internal tensions to crack the party’s ranks. He claimed that Pen Vano’s standard of living has increased dramatically since leaving the opposition party.
All three men were expelled from the Sam Rainsy Party last year after disagreements with top party officials. The party’s steering committee conducted several purges of members it said disagreed too strongly with party policy or broke party by-laws.
The expulsions sparked a number of bitter fights, with several party functions—including this year’s congress—being disrupted by alleged ex-party members.
Protesters Sunday again accused Sam Rainsy of corruption, calling him a “traitor” and spray-painting demands that he step down as party head on his residence’s wall.
Sok Kong, director of the well-connected Sokimex company, said in an interview.
Under a controversial deal approved last year, Sokimex pays the government a flat fee of $1 million for the ticket concession, and can keep all the profits from sales.
Sok Kong said Wednesday that his company sold only $1.4 million worth of tickets in 1999. However, he would not say exactly how many visitors entered the temples last year.
Cambodia also will try to tap into the potentially huge Chinese market with an incentive plan that will allow Chinese tourists to spend their own currency at the Angkor temples, Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the tourism conference.
Hun Sen blasted lax security and safety measures, saying that two recent incidents on popular ferry boats between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap threatened the country economically.
Armed gunmen hijacked a boat in March and robbed the passengers, and an overloaded ferry sank in the Tonle Sap River last week, killing one Taiwanese tourist.
“Why would tourists want to come on a holiday to die?’’ the prime minister said, adding that the country must reverse its image as a war zone if it hopes to attract more visitors.