Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday accused the Sam Rainsy Party of attempting to assemble a rebel force, which he likened to the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters.
Brandishing a list of names and photographs of opposition members whom he said were recruits, Hun Sen announced that the rebel group had enlisted about 280 people, or 40 people from each district in Phnom Penh.
“These forces are similar to the CFF,” Hun Sen said during a morning ceremony at the Ministry of Interior. The CFF was blamed for a failed attack on the capital in November 2000.
The list of names, which the premier held up in display, was created on Dec 6, 2002, by a party that “won National Assembly seats” in the last election and “did not join the new government,” Hun Sen said, short of naming the opposition party directly.
The list was also signed and approved three months ago by that party’s leader, he said, referring to Sam Rainsy. Hun Sen did not release the list to the public.
The premier urged those who had been recruited for the rebel force to surrender to authorities.
“Please, please come out and I will not punish all of you, but you will be witnesses in court,” Hun Sen said. He added that his announcement was not intended as a form of political intimidation.
Hun Sen read out some of the names from the list, including Sam Rainsy Party members Khum Piseth, Yoeun Savat, Thach Va, Ket Satya, Chhin Kim Chen and Keo Sreyleak.
Opposition officials vehemently denied the prime minister’s accusations.
“We’re not sure what the prime minister is talking about,” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said. “We’re not involved in anything like that.”
Ung Bun-Ang said his party had denied similar accusa-
tions made by Hun Sen last October.
“It didn’t make any sense then, and it doesn’t make any sense now,” he said. “It’s time for the prime minister to bring up some evidence.”
He charged that Hun Sen’s allegations were meant to intimidate opposition party members.
Reached by telephone Sunday, Khum Piseth and Chhin Kim Chen denied involvement in any rebel group.
Khum Piseth expressed surprise at the prime minister’s allegations.
“I just woke up to hear this information. It is not true. We are not recruiting any forces,” he said.
Sam Rainsy, who party officials said is in France, could not be reached for comment.
On Saturday, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh promised lucrative positions in the new government to opposition members if they defected to the royalist party.
The prince said Hun Sen had offered to give Funcinpec additional secretary of state and undersecretary of state positions in the government, which the prince would, in turn, give to opposition defectors.
“I would like to appeal to all the Sam Rainsy Party members whose leader has fled…to participate [in the government],” Prince Ranariddh said, during a school inauguration ceremony broadcast on the state-run television station TVK.
“Don’t serve Sam Rainsy because he has fled already,” the prince said.
Further criticizing the op-
position leader, Prince Rana-riddh accused Sam Rainsy of causing political problems for the country.
“Sam Rainsy is very good at making fire. And after he sets the fire, he flees the country,” the prince said. “He left his followers and let me put out the fire for him.”
Relations between the prince and Sam Rainsy, once amicable under their Alliance of Democrats, have soured in recent weeks, as the two leaders have traded vicious insults through the media.
Last week, Sam Rainsy publicly suggested that the prince took bribes from Hun Sen to form a coalition government with the CPP.
On Sunday, however, Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Ok Socheat said the royalists were offering positions to the opposition “to show SRP that we don’t betray them.”
“We still think about the [Alliance of Democrats],” he said. “We are democrats. We don’t want to fight.”
Ok Socheat said Funcinpec would give all of its 24 undersecretary of state positions to Sam Rainsy Party members, as well as additional deputy provincial governor positions.
Opposition members, however, would be asked to defect to Funcinpec to preserve the royalists’ quota in its coalition agreement with the CPP, he said.
Last week, opposition Senator Ou Bunlong defected to Funcinpec, joining the government as a secretary of state at the Ministry of Finance.
Several opposition party members had already been contacted by Funcinpec officials, urging them to leave the opposition, said Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann.
But, he said, the royalists would not likely be successful in their recruitment.
“Even if they give me the
position of the president of
the National Assembly, I would not take it,” Yim Sovann said.
“I cannot betray the Constitu-
tion, the country or the people’s will.”
He added: “So far, nobody wants to join Funcinpec.”
Ung Bun-Ang said he himself had been approached by Funcinpec officials, whom he declined to name, to join the government.
Though there could be more defections to Funcinpec, he said, it would clear the party of those who didn’t comply with its policies.
“Let them quit now. It’s much easier. Some people are attracted to this kind offer,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)