A Human Rights Party official Wednesday accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of abusing his power and depriving soldiers at Preah Vihear temple of badly needed supplies, an accusation that follows a Saturday incident in which RCAF officials blocked six truckloads of supplies organized by the HRP.
Soldiers who blocked the truck Saturday cited an order by the prime minister to stop opposition party members from delivering supplies, HRP Vice President Pen Sovann claimed Tuesday by telephone. The temple is a hotspot in the ongoing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.
“[Hun Sen] abuses the power in his hands and did not think of the hungry soldiers at the temple when he prevented the contributions by the opposition party,” said Pen Sovann, who was prime minister in 1981 and a colleague of Hun Sen in the then-People’s Republic of Kampuchea.
“We were disappointed that we had to transport back all those supplies,” which included donated clothes, food, medicine and $5,000, he said. They were to be delivered by three HRP lawmakers, he added.
Hun Sen overrode the approval of National Assembly President Heng Samrin, who gave permission for the HRP’s trip from Jan 1 to Jan 5, Pen Sovann alleged.
“We were there in our capacity as lawmakers, not as a political party,” he said.
Nguon Nhel, CPP first vice president of the National Assembly, said the ruling party and Hun Sen had nothing to do with the incident.
“The military is a national force, which is not related to a political party,” Nguon Nhel maintained.
He added that he was unaware of Heng Samrin giving permission for the trip. Heng Samrin could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Lieutenant General Srey Dek, the RCAF commander for Preah Vihear province, offered several explanations for the incident.
“I did not get any orders from Samdech Hun Sen. We closed the road because of construction and military duty…. We were concerned about their security,” he said by telephone Wednesday.
“They could have contributed at the mountain base, but they insisted on going to the top,” Srey Dek said, adding that because of past donations, from Hun Sen and others, there is no shortage of anything.
The incident drew criticism from officials at the SRP and a human rights group who said the military’s refusal to let the lawmakers pass had nothing to do with security.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said by telephone Wednesday that the incident called into question the neutrality of the nation’s armed forces.
“It’s a serious problem. The military is not independent and they discriminate against the opposition parties,” he said, adding that ties between the military and CPP run deep.