In Tam, Lon Nol-Era Leader, Dies in US

In Tam, who served as Cam­bodia’s prime minister and National As­sembly president under the Lon Nol regime in the early 1970s, died on Saturday in the US state of Ar­i­zona, Funcinpec’s Minister of Rural De­velopment Lu Laysreng said Mon­day.

In Tam, who enjoyed a checkered political career that lasted from the 1950s to 1993, when his Demo­crat­ic Party ran unsuccessfully in the Untac elections, is thought to have been in his 80s and had been sick for several years, Lu Lay­sreng said.

A one-time loyalist to then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk, In Tam was in­volved in the prince’s overthrow in 1970, Lu Laysreng said, adding that he had not participated willingly in the coup and would became one of the founding members of Funcin­pec in 1982.

“He had no intention to help [in the coup]. The situation forced him,” Lu Laysreng said.

In Tam could at times be ruthless in his approach to politics, according to Justin Corfield and Laura Sum­mers’ “Historical Dictionary of Cam­bo­dia.”

In 1963, the dictionary states, he ar­ranged the arrest and execution of his own nephew Preap In, who had joined the Khmer Serei, a Thai- and US-supported anticommunist and anti-Norodom Sihanouk rebel movement.

After becoming involved himself in the overthrow of Norodom Si­ha­nouk, In Tam was made president of the National Assembly.

Although he gained the affection of peasants and soldiers, he was un­popular among Phnom Penh’s elite, and military officers judged him an in­competent field commander, ac­cording to the dictionary.

In May 1973, he was appointed prime minister, though effective power remained with Lon Nol and In Tam was relieved of his duties in De­cember of the same year.

One day after the Khmer Rouge cap­tured Phnom Penh, he fled from his farm in Poipet to Thailand on Ap­ril 18, 1975, where he unsuccessfully tried to establish a counterrevolutionary force along the border. Thai au­thorities, unhappy with his activities, de­ported him to France the same year, and he later received asy­lum in the US.

He returned to Cambodia several times.

In 1993, his Democratic Party, modeled partly on the party of the same name in the US, failed to win any seats, and he returned to Amer­i­ca.

Reflecting on In Tam’s career, Prince Sisowath Sirirath said he had not betrayed Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, and that In Tam’s activities had been indicative of the country’s po­litical climate at the time.

“In Tam joined Lon Nol because Lon Nol had soldiers and power,” he said. “It was because of the country’s circumstances during the Cold War.”

 

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