Mass Opposition Defection Fails to Materialize

A Sam Rainsy Party member continued Wednesday to delay a promised group defection of up to 40 party activists, while those at the party’s headquarters called him an Interior Ministry-installed spy and provocateur.

Long Serey denied he was employed by the Interior Ministry or RCAF Intelligence Chief Mol Roeup, who government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said was reporting on a rebel force of Sam Rainsy Party members.

“I am not lying. We have people, but we are not ready” to defect,  Long Serey said by telephone.

Long Serey said Tuesday he was abandoning the rebel force, whose existence was disclosed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday.

During a speech at the Interior Ministry, the premier offered amnesty to the alleged militants, provided they come forward and give testimony in court.

The so-called rebel force is actually a “shadow ministry” openly organized to monitor the activities of the military and related government offices, Sam Rainsy Party officials have said.

It is known as the National Defense, Veterans’ Affairs, Demobilization and Public Security Committee, or Commit­tee No 14. Members of the network are organized by the nation’s military regions and are known as “spokesmen” for the opposition.

The Sam Rainsy Party says it has 13 other committees that scrutinize and report on the activities of government ministries.

Long Serey repeatedly declined to meet reporters or disclose his location Wednesday.

However, he is known to have three other Sam Rainsy Party members on his side. One is Thach Vang, whose photograph Hun Sen held up with Long Serey’s during the Interior Mini­stry speech in which he accused the opposition party of planning a revolt.

The two men wore military uniforms in the photographs, which Hun Sen said was evidence of their involvement in an illegal force.

But Long Serey said Tuesday that he and Thach Vang had been Funcinpec-aligned RCAF soldiers before joining the Sam Rainsy Party in 1998. The uniforms worn in the photographs appeared to be regular RCAF uniforms.

The other two known defectors are the sons of Sam Rainsy Party activist Ung Bunsom. Speaking at party headquarters Wednesday, Ung Bunsom said his sons had recruited Long Serey and Thach Vang for Committee No 14.

The sons had been employed by Long Serey’s NGO in Battam­bang province, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, Ung Bunsom, said.

“The NGO only had a name. It didn’t do anything,” he said.

He and his sons arrived in Phnom Penh from Battambang Tuesday morning. He said that the night before he had been coerced, under threat of arrest, by Long Serey to give names of opposition party activists involved in Committee No 14.

“That night I was very scared, so I just wrote the fake names. Some were real names, but they don’t know [I wrote] their names on the list,” Ung Bunsom said.

He said he had not heard from Long Serey since, but his sons disappeared Wednesday morning. Ung Bunsom’s suspicions that the two had aligned themselves with Long Serey were later confirmed.

Reached by telephone, his son Ung Sak Peseth said he and his brother had joined Long Serey to acquire “peace and position.”

“Any position that the government offers me, I will accept,” he said. “I don’t care what my father thinks of me.”

Though Hun Sen promised no jobs to defectors on Sunday, he said they would be respectfully treated.

Government officials, however, have said lawyers are reviewing evidence to file complaints and secure arrest warrants from the Military Court.

Ney Thol, director of the Military Court, said late Wednes­day afternoon that no complaints had been filed against any rebels.

Though mass defections from the Sam Rainsy Party did not materialize on Wednesday, one opposition official publicly

withdrew from politics for the sake of his business and social life.

“Before I joined the SRP, a lot of Funcinpec and CPP officials used my travel agency. Since I started with SRP, they stopped coming back,” said Moeung Sonn, who had sat on the opposition party’s steering committee.

“Some of them stopped talking to me. When they saw my face, they turned away. I hope that after I resign from the SRP my friends will come back,” he said Wednesday.

Moeung Sonn had been the opposition’s top parliamentary candidate for Kompong Chhnang province. He was not elected.

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