kandal province, Kien Svay district – Seven years after soldiers loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh were disarmed by CPP forces at the end of factional fighting in July 1997, National Assembly President Prince Ranariddh announced Saturday the formation of a new 326-man royalist bodyguard unit.
Inaugurated Thursday, the new complex of barracks and administrative offices in Dey Et commune where the unit is based comprises eight unfurnished buildings with a barbed wire-topped fence and a sandbagged guard post at the front.
The headquarters cost more than $60,000, Prince Ranariddh said in a radio broadcast, adding that he paid $20,000 himself.
Two Funcinpec sources said co-Minister of Defense Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec’s former military chief, helped pay for the buildings, but he could not be reached for comment Monday.
Locals said Monday that the land previously belonged to Funcinpec Deputy Intelligence Director Chao Sambath, who was killed in 1997.
“The unit was formed to provide security for the National Assembly’s leadership,” Prince Ranariddh said.
He added that the bodyguards would also provide security for villagers in the area.
“Before there used to be gangs,” said fisherman Hun Son, 55. “They used knives, sticks and axes to fight each other. But since the bodyguards came here, [gangs] don’t disturb anyone.”
But not all of the locals were happy to welcome the new unit.
“In 1997, they fought in Phnom Penh, so I wasn’t worried,” said Roth Sokhom, 45, commenting on clashes between Funcinpec and CPP loyalists. “But now I’m a little bit worried.”