Opposition’s Safety Request Highlights Fears of Retribution

Kong Korm Should Return, Officials Say

A letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from a top Sam Rainsy Party official in self-exile asking for a guarantee of safety appears this week not to have received a reply.

Without the safety guarantee or parliamentary immunity from arrest, Kong Korm, the opposition party’s vice president, will not return from five months of self-exile, a party official, Son Chhay, said Wednesday.

Son Chhay said the party is pushing for Kong Korm to be in the yet-to-be formed Senate in order for him to receive parliamentary immunity from arrest.

Kong Korm’s letter was written five months after Hun Sen singled him out one of two men wanted for questioning in connection with September’s “illegal demonstrations.”

But despite security officials saying that Kong Korm’s letter is unwarranted, some Funcinpec and opposition officials say worries about political intimidation are ever-present.

Son Chhay claimed he had received a death threat this month and that other government critics, such as Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy, are uneasy about their security.

“The situation in the country is still very fragile,” Son Chhay said. “The good behavior is not a real thing.”

One senior Funcinpec parliamentarian, who noted that there is a particular distaste among CPP parliamentarians for their Sam Rainsy Party counterparts, said it will take six months to one year for factional fault lines to begin showing.

Funcinpec officials close to Nhiek Bun Chhay this week said the former general and strident CPP critic is waiting for military and personal security concerns to be addressed before he returns. (See story on page 13)

And a CPP-aligned newspaper on Saturday published an indirect threat against a top Funcinpec official, Kieng Vang, just three months after the two parties formed a coalition agreement.

CPP Interior Ministry officials rejected suggestions government political intimidation is latent.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak on Tuesday admonished the newspaper, Arayathor (Civilization), for printing what he called “nonsense.”

Arayathor warned Kieng Vang “not to do anything which is far away from the Royal Govern­ment” and noted his Funcinpec predecessor, Interior State Secretary Ho Sok, was killed.

Ho Sok was executed in a police general’s office in the Interior Ministry on July 7. Following a spate of killings one year ago of Funcinpec loyalists, a human rights official said he believed Kieng Vang was next on the list.

Khieu Sopheak also countered that the political situation has steadily improved since the run-up to last July’s elections and that the coalition government would not have survived thus far if political intimidation was present.

Kong Korm in his Jan 30 letter, obtained Monday, wrote he is a victim of “an entirely political issue” and asked Hun Sen for the investigation into the Septem­ber demonstrations to be “an­nulled.”

“I hope that you will state this issue clearly not only in a spirit of national reconciliation but also as an opening to freedom of expression,” Kong Korm wrote.

Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen, said Tuesday that he had not seen a letter from Kong Korm. Had such a letter reached the prime minister’s desk, it would have been forwarded to the Interior Ministry, he said. Interior Ministry officials said Tuesday they were unaware of the letter, and rejected Kong Korm’s suggestion that he or other politicians are victims of political intimidation.

“He should not talk about ‘security for politicians’ because many have returned,” said General Mao Chandara, chief of headquarters for National Police.

Thun Saray, director of the human rights group Adhoc, said Kong Korm should return and test whether the government will attempt to pursue charges.

Charges relating to the demonstration against Kem Sokha, a former parliamentarian, have been dropped, Thun Saray noted.

“If the government does something against him I think the government will lose face and public opinion,” said Thun Saray.

Kong Korm left Cambodia on Sept 25. Kong Korm is in Bangkok and seeking asylum in a third country, Son Chhay said.

(Additional reporting by Nanaho Sawano and Ham Samnang)


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