Funcinpec continued its criticism of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling CPP in radio broadcasts Friday, and leading Funcinpec officials said no agreement was reached between the two to end their inter-party media war.
Royalist officials also claimed the CPP has backed off their tussle with Funcinpec over the 1997 fighting as the Hun Sen government’s decision Tuesday to broadcast a documentary of the factional fighting had backfired.
“If they broadcast [the documentary] longer, the CPP will lose more. People do not believe [the documentary] because they did not see the tanks carrying their [looted] bicycles away,” Funcinpec First Senate Vice President Nhiek Bun Chhay said Friday.
Bloody street fighting erupted on July 5 to July 6, 1997, in Phnom Penh when troops loyal to then Second Prime Minister Hun Sen ousted then First Prime Minister Ranariddh. Massive looting broke out in Phnom Penh as victorious troops helped themselves to war booty.
Nhiek Bun Chhay also said he and other senior Funcinpec leaders were unaware of any agreement with the CPP to end the verbal wrestling over who was to blame for the 1997 fighting.
Government spokesman and Information Ministry Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith and Funcinpec co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath claimed on Wednesday that both parties had agreed to stop criticizing each other.
However, a senior Funcinpec official accompanying Prince Norodom Ranariddh in Portugal said on Friday that no agreement had been reached. “I am here with the prince,” the official said by telephone from Portugal. “He absolutely did not talk to [Hun Sen].”
Khieu Kanharith said from Hanoi on Friday that the agreement was reached with the “highest levels” in Funcinpec and “ordinary staff” are probably not aware of the efforts to end the inter-party criticism.
Commenting on reports that royalist Ta Phrom radio broadcast a speech on Friday morning criticizing Hun Sen, Khieu Kanharith said Funcinpec officials were asked to explain and had promised to cut such broadcasts.
Royalist supporters, meanwhile, have launched a weekly newspaper, The Nationalist, whose stated credo is be “the voice of all those who believe there is another future than the one that is currently offered by our leaders.”
The Nationalist was the official newspaper of then Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s (1955 to 1969) Sangkum Reastr Niyum, the period hailed by many Cambodia’s Golden Age.
The first edition—with segments in English, French and Khmer—features an interview with outspoken Funcinpec Lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara and contains an article by King Norodom Sihanouk in which he criticize “the rich and powerful” Cambodians who have become “heroes” of land grabbing.
He also criticized Thai and Vietnamese nationals who have become “naturalized” citizens and are buying Cambodian border land.
“We volunteered to print this paper to help [Funcinpec],” Publisher Pen Vano said on Friday
“I got permission from the Ministry of Information, and we do not intend to have the war of the pen. We would like Cambodia to have stability,” he said.
(Additional reporting Van Roeun)