Pen Vano Denies Partaking In Sam Rainsy Vandalism

Pen Vano, one of three former members of the Sam Rainsy Par­ty accused of vandalizing the par­ty leader’s house last week, in­sisted Sunday that he had nothing to do with it.

He said he was at the scene of the vandalism, but only because he lives near Sam Rainsy’s home and walked over to observe.

“I reject completely the news that implicates me,’’ he said in a state­ment faxed to the Cambodia Daily. “I did not take part in the de­monstration on April 30.’’

Party officials say that on that date, while Sam Rainsy was leading a demonstration against government corruption across town, two truckloads of Rainsy Party op­ponents went to his home.

The opponents hurled rocks through the party leader’s windows and burned tires in his yard in the most violent public action tak­en against the opposition party since the election turmoil of 1998.

Witnesses said the same group destroyed a concrete stupa Sam Rainsy had erected across from the National Assembly to honor victims of the 1997 grenade at­tack.

Pen Vano said in an interview Sun­day that he is upset at the allegations because he still supports Sam Rainsy, despite having re­signed from the party last year ov­er the party leadership’s decision to replace 16 party chiefs in Kom­pong Cham and Kompong Thom provinces.

“I will continue to recognize Sam Rainsy [as party leader] and would vote for him, but I plan to form a committee against the de­cision’’ to replace the 16 officials.

He said as many as 10,000 par­ty members also oppose the officials’ replacement, because they had been with the party since its formation and the action was not “the democratic way.’’

The other two men accused—Ne­­ang Sean and Chan Sam­nang—are two of the 16 chiefs replaced last year. Pen Vano also faxed The Daily a statement, signed by them, saying Pen Vano had nothing to do with the events of April 30. Sok Pheng, a lawyer for Sam Rain­sy, last week accused all three of org­anizing the counter-protests, and filed a complaint with the court.

asking that they be arrested.

Pen Vano said if the party does not drop its lawsuit, he will file a de­famation countersuit Tuesday seeking 10 million riel [$2,632] in damages.

Phi Thach, Sam Rainsy Party cabinet chief, dismissed Pen Vano’s version of events Sunday. He said that while it is true some party members do not agree with the leadership, the number is more like “1,000 or 2,000’’ and if people were seriously upset, they would be staging demonstrations.

“Everybody always claims [they] didn’t do anything,’’ he said. “Now it is up to the court to decide.’’


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