Suggesting that a divided Funcinpec was on the verge of an armed brawl, Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday warned soldiers and police to stay out of political party infighting.
“I have heard that in one of the political parties that has a dispute —one group has soldiers’ support and the other group has the police support…[RCAF Commander-in-Chief] Ke Kim Yan, please watch carefully,” Hun Sen said.
“Do not have any involvement with the disputes of the parties. They have a right to do politics but I will not allow them to use their weapons and their uniforms. They had better use their tongues and their teeth to bite each other.”
Funcinpec has recently suffered a split, with its Steering Committee—backed by former royalist resistance fighters—pushing party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh to withdraw co-Minister of Interior You Hockry from his position of co-minister.
But diplomats and party officials said they doubted the rift would escalate into a fight.
“This has only to do with the internal dispute of You Hockry and the steering committee. This has got nothing to do with armed conflict,” said co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath.
One diplomatic official was more blunt, saying only, “There’s nothing to it.”
The premier appealed to Cambodians to be “patient and quiet,” and not worry about political parties fracturing in the months leading up to next year’s national elections, which he said will probably be held Sunday, July 27, 2003, though he said they could take place Aug 3.
“Perhaps the splits in a number of political parties cause some doubt about the future. But it is only the internal affairs of the parties. It is true people have the political right, but we should not support [these breakaway groups] because these groups make the dispute bigger,” Hun Sen said.
“From now on elections demand political and economic stability.”