‘Freedom Fighters’ Vow Continued Resistance

Sam Rainsy Party Denies Connection

An obscure group led by a former Sam Rainsy Party member says it will maintain an armed resistance against the Phnom Penh government as long as Hun Sen leads Cambodia.

But the group lacks resources and will not be able to challenge the government or create instability, government officials and analysts say.

The Cambodian Freedom Fighters say they are fighting in the name of democracy.

“War waged to demand dem­ocracy will continue as long as Hun Sen is in power and not ar­rested for international trial,” the group said in a Wednesday statement faxed to news organizations and signed by Cambodian-Amer­ican Chhun Yasith. A former member of opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s self-named party, Chhun Yasith was identified as president of the Freedom Fight­ers.

The statement accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of leading a “communist tyrant regime” and of “uncountable criminal acts” perpetrated since 1979, when the Khmer Rouge regime was re­placed by the People’s Republic of Kam­puchea, of which Hun Sen and many current CPP leaders were top members.

It also urged Asean not to grant Cambodia full membership and called for aid donors and other countries not to recognize the new coalition government.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak condemned the group, but said it posed no threat to the government and could not harm stability in Cambodia.

“It’s out of date for them to try such games,” he said Sunday. “They would need ammunition and money from the outside. And who is going to help them now? They cannot cause any problems for us.”

Khieu Sopheak said it would be “wrong” for Sam Rainsy to support the group’s activities, but added that he didn’t believe Sam Rainsy is tied to the group.

“I think he would not be in­volved but they might use his name,” the CPP police general said.

“Sam Rainsy will fight for democracy in the National As­sembly, not at the border. At least that’s what I hope.”

A UN official familiar with the border area last month dismissed the group as “political trappings” with no ability to build a force or mount an insurrection against Phnom Penh.

The group claimed it organized Nov 12 anti-government demonstrations in Phnom Malai, which flared in at least three communes and included the ransacking of the district’s head office. Govern­ment forces squashed the unrest and arrested an undetermined number of people. Legal proceedings are continuing.

The Sam Rainsy Party is apparently concerned about being linked to Chhun Yasith and his group.

The party’s US branch re­leased a statement last week, responding to “some individuals in a certain political camp” and an article published recently in Angkor Borei, a Khmer-language newspaper.

“[They] have accused the Sam Rainsy Party of being involved with and supporting the dissident-armed force or armed resistance on the Cambodian-Thai border. The SRP unequivocally denies all allegations.”

The statement said Chhun Yasith and the Cambodian Free­dom Fighters “had and have no official or unofficial ties” to the Sam Rainsy Party.

Ou Bunlong, a legal adviser to the party, said Friday that Chhun Yasith left the party Oct 7 following an election-related dispute within the party.

“He wanted to be head of a [candidate] list in one province and he could not,” Ou Bunlong said. “He expected to be very high and we could not give him what he wanted. It was difficult for the party to satisfy his needs, so he left.”

Sam Rainsy Party officials, including Ou Bunlong, said they did not know what position he held in the party in the US.

Rich Garella, the party’s Phnom Penh-based communications coordinator, said that not only had Chhun Yasith resigned from the party but also “from all posts.”

Sam Rainsy is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.


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