Reports in several Khmer-language newspapers of a CPP rift and pending implosion are being denied by government officials and opposition party members alike.
Members of the ruling CPP claim the reports, which allege that Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng is massing troops and tanks for a move against Prime Minister Hun Sen while he is in New York, were fabricated by the Sam Rainsy Party to embarrass and disrupt the CPP.
“They are trying to maintain this myth of inter-party fighting,” CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday.
Sam Rainsy Party cabinet chief Phi Thach, meanwhile, blamed high-ranking officials of the CPP for starting the rumors.
He also denied any military mobilization.
“[The CPP] started to make rumors because they are trying to frighten their internal rivals,” Phi Thach said. “If they want to make a coup, we don’t know anything about it.”
CPP implosion and coup rumors have periodically surfaced in Cambodia and were particularly frequent shortly before the factional fighting in 1997. In August 1995 coup rumors—sparked by large-scale military exercises outside Phnom Penh—prompted a police shoot-out that wounded four westerners who drove through a road block near Independence Monument.
The most recent rumors of a possible coup were published Monday in Angkor Thom magazine and Kampuchea Tngay Nih (Cambodia Today).
Later in the stories, CPP and Sam Rainsy Party officials were quoted as saying a coup wasn’t likely, and blamed each other for spreading rumors about possible civil unrest.
This latest round of public finger-pointing follows on the heels of Sam Rainsy’s claims that his party is being unfairly implicated by the government in last year’s rocket attack in Siem Reap.
The attack, during which a rocket was fired at a convoy carrying Hun Sen, has been described by the prime minister as an attempt on his life.
But it is unclear exactly where the rocket was fired. Some witnesses placed Hun Sen’s car more than 100 meters from the site of the blast. Sam Rainsy, also in the convoy, claimed Hun Sen was more than 1 km away from the rocket blast, which killed a teenage boy and injured two others.
Hun Sen’s critics claimed his supporters orchestrated the attack to justify a crackdown on opposition party members.
Two Sam Rainsy Party members recently were arrested in connection with the incident. Opposition party officials say this is merely a continued attempt by the government to intimidate Sam Rainsy supporters.
The pair, Mong Davuth from Siem Reap and Kang Bun Heang from Battambang, remain at a military prison in central Phnom Penh, according to Khieu Kanharith.
“[The military prosecutor] is trying to investigate if the accusations are valid,” Khieu Kanharith said.