Opposition Denies Links to Free VN Group

Members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party charged intimidation against “corrupt politicians” for linking them to the anti-communist Free Vietnam group in a document bearing the party’s seal.

Government officials, however, asserted that no decision over the document’s truth or falsehood can be made until a full investigation is conducted.

The statement, titled “Coop­er­a­tion” and allegedly written from Bangkok in August, uses derogatory language toward Viet­namese and says the parties will bond together in a resistance movement to “demand back…territory seized by communists.”

It is dated just two weeks after a reputed Free Vietnam ringleader was arrested in northwestern Cambodia, allegedly by Phnom Penh officials who in the past have arrested and deported group operatives for assembling a military force on Cambodian soil.

Sam Rainsy Party cabinet chief Phi Thach said on Wednesday the statement was fabricated to “erode the prestige of the party.”

“Some people in government, they don’t want the Sam Rainsy Party to be strengthened. I’m quite sure of that,” Phi Thach said. Party founder and president Sam Rainsy is in Paris and was not available for a statement.

His comments echoed a statement the party issued in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, arguing the “Cooperation” document falsified the party’s logo and seal and forged Sam Rainsy’s signature.

But Ministry of Interior spokes­man Khieu Sopheak said the investigation will not operate under the premise that the document is false.

“If it is true, then this country again will be led to war with its neighbor. If it is false, OK, no­body gets hurt,” he said, adding that an investigation of the document is underway.

The opposition’s allegations are the third in a recent line of charges that the party was intimidated by the government.

Late last week, Sam Rainsy parliamentarian Lon Phon was abducted by armed, uniformed men but released three days later. And last month, two party members clandestinely were arrested in connection with an alleged attempt in 1998 to assassinate Prime Minister Hun Sen. Since then, the two were appointed government lawyers and their party denied access to them.

This latest round is yet another “ridiculous attempt by a crooked politician to discredit the party,” Phi Thach said, not directly naming the subject of his scorn.

The party has, however, spoken out against the Vietnamese in the past, especially in the context of land disputes along the border. The anti-Hanoi group, reportedly led by a man named Nguen Huo Chanh and funded by Vietnamese-Americans, surfaced in Cambodia several years ago when roughly 30 of its members, some of them US citizens, were arrested in Cambodia and deported.

Although the government took credit for arrests in 1995 and 1996, officials deny the August arrest reported by eyewitnesses and confirmed by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


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