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.’’