pailin – Top former Khmer Rouge officials and insiders close to Ieng Sary’s Democratic National Union Movement said last week that there are no plans to create a political party led by former guerrillas based here.
However, they also would not rule out the formation of a political party to compete in the next national elections scheduled for 2003, or in 1999’s commune polls.
In Phnom Penh, government leaders are expecting the former Khmer Rouge leadership to form a political party, two Cambodian government advisers said earlier this month. They are uncertain, however, how soon the former rebels will organize.
Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, both key members of the Khmer Rouge brain trust for more than 30 years, defected Friday to the government. Of all Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan is considered the most popular with the Cambodian people as he is not perceived to be corrupt.
Recently in Pailin, In Sopheap, one of five senior Khmer Rouge intellectuals who defected in June, indicated that the formation of a political party is possible.
“Maybe,” he said Dec 17. “But right now, I’m just settling in.”
In Sopheap spoke briefly outside the residence of Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge deputy premier who leads the DNUM, a quasi-political movement based in this former Khmer Rouge stronghold.
Pailin’s second deputy governor, Ieng Vuth, said Dec 19 that he has no interest in joining a political party. During an interview at Pailin City Hall, Ieng Vuth, who is Ieng Sary’s son, wore a so-called “Hun Sen watch,” a gold-colored wristwatch that bears the image of the CPP vice president and prime minister on the face.
Colonel Seng Narin, a deputy commander of the Pailin-based RCAF Division 22, said a political party could be formed in the “near future.”
However, he said, the municipal government must markedly improve the people’s living conditions before area stalwarts form a party.
In Sopheap, 55, defected to the government at Pailin in June with four other long-time rebels: Thiounn Thioeunn, 78; Kao Bun Heng, 52; Mak Ben, 54; and Chan Youran, 62. The five remain based in this northwestern town.
Phnom Penh military officials said at the time of the defection that they had not negotiated with the five men, and speculated that they had made a deal to join Ieng Sary’s DNUM. Defense co-Minister Tea Banh said at the time that the men were the “most important intellectuals” remaining with the dwindling hard-line Khmer Rouge movement.
The city’s Cabinet chief, Mei Meakk, said Dec 18 that the group is not yet thinking of starting a political party and the men are “going their separate ways.”
The DNUM did not form a party to run in the July elections. Pailin voters elected a Sam Rainsy Party member to sit in the municipality’s National Assembly seat, irking CPP officials who had provided the town with supplies since the area defected to the government in 1996.