Funcinpec Memorial Plans Raise Ire of CPP

A spokesman for the CPP issued a heated warning Wednes­day to Funcinpec officials about their plan to memorialize Fun­cinpec fighters who died in the July 1997 factional fighting, saying the ceremony may lead to fresh violence.

“If they want to create instability and fighting it would happen. We do not want fighting to happen or have people run overseas,” said Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information.

He also warned that if Fun­cinpec officials proceed with their plans, the CPP will air on television a videotape of fighting that he claims shows that Funcinpec was at fault for the July violence.

“If they hold the ceremony it means that they want to show everyone who is right and who is wrong,” he said. “Before, we did not show their activities on this tape since we had created a coalition government and we were determined to work together.”

The 1997 street battles left more than 50 soldiers dead and was a precursor to fresh fighting across the country that lasted for the remainder of the year.

Dozens of royalist army officers disappeared in the days following the fighting. Though some bodies were later recovered, no one has been arrested for what critics called the brutal murders of Funcinpec’s top military officials.

The international community condemned the CPP and Prime Min­ister Hun Sen for taking power after the fighting, with the UN and Asean calling it a coup d’etat that effectively threw Prince Norodom Ranariddh out of the first prime minister seat he won in UN-sponsored 1993 elections.

While Funcinpec officials said the fighting was nothing less than a CPP grab for power, Prime Minister Hun Sen blamed the outbreak of violence on Funcinpec plans to use Khmer Rouge elements to undermine the government.

On Wednesday, Funcinpec Deputy Secretary General Chhim Seak Leng said the ceremony is only meant to show respect to the souls of those Funcinpec fighters who died. The ceremony is scheduled for the fifth anniversary of the July 5 and 6 fighting and will be held at Funcinpec party headquarters.

“I am not worried about the accusations by the CPP of how this might affect our partnership in the coalition government because we are only remembering the spirits of the dead party members,” said Chhim Seak Leng.

Funcinpec military officers who asked for anonymity on Wednesday defended their party’s plan.

“We are not trying to create a problem or fighting,” said one Funcinpec military official. “This ceremony is showing our heart and respect to the lives that were lost. Every party would do this for their people. It is not wrong to do this.”

The party has held the ceremony every year since the fighting, “but this year it is bigger and we have all their names on a monument,” said another Funcinpec official.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, a former RCAF chief of staff and deputy Funcinpec secretary general who led Funcinpec resistance forces in the northwest after the 1997 fighting, said Wednesday that the party has also built a monument at Wat Chambok Meas in Muk Kampul district, Kandal province for the more than 4,000 people who died in resistance movements since the 1980s.

A political analyst said Wednesday that Funcinpec is holding the public ceremony this year in a bid to win the public’s respect after a dismal showing in the commune council elections earlier this year portrayed the party as directionless and ineffective.


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