In a reversal from the usual accusations hurled between the ruling party and the political opposition, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday accused the SRP of intimidating individuals who had defected to the CPP.
During his speech at a school inauguration in Prey Veng province, Hun Sen claimed that SRP officials had forcibly detained a party official from Kompong Thom province in an attempt to prevent her from defecting. He further claimed that two former SRP officials in Svay Rieng province who were actively recruiting for the CPP had received a telephone death threat.
The SRP on Monday said there was no truth to Hun Sen’s claims.
“I am waiting to see the NGO and international community’s reactions; this is an abuse of human rights,” the prime minister said. “The small has made threats against the big…. This is an issue that must be solved. The report will be forwarded to foreign embassies. It has become a dictatorial party.”
Hun Sen demanded that the authorities take action to arrest whoever made the alleged death threats against former SRP members he identified as Ros Serei Udom and Chhim Saron.
“Within three hours we will find and arrest him to show the people who has abused the human rights and people’s rights,” Hun Sen said.
In the case of the alleged detention, the premier announced that he had put former SRP lawmaker Sok Pheng, who defected to the CPP last month, in charge of investigating the matter. Formerly the top SRP official in Kompong Thom province, Sok Pheng is now a government adviser and deputy head of the CPP working group for Kompong Thom.
Speaking by telephone, Sok Pheng said that Tim Norn, formerly an SRP commune councilor for Baray district’s Baray commune, has filed a complaint with Kompong Thom police against SRP provincial council deputy chief Thorn Rithy for allegedly detaining her in Phnom Penh on Feb 14 after she joined the CPP. He said the complaint also alleges that SRP lawmaker Tioulong Saumura assisted in the supposed detention.
“She was abused by the SRP. She has the right to support any political party,” he said. “Let the court judge the case.”
Tim Norn could not be reached for comment.
Kompong Thom provincial police chief Chea San confirmed that he had received the complaint Sunday morning. “It is a penal case, so I must investigate first before I send it to the court,” he said, adding that it might be difficult to determine the truth given that a month has already passed since the alleged detention.
Thorn Rithy denied the allegation against him, saying that Tim Norn had thought better of her decision to join the CPP, but feared leaving the ruling party; so he offered his assistance, letting Tim Norn and her family stay one night at his house in Phnom Penh. The following day, he said, Tioulong Saumura brought Tim Norn to the local rights group Licadho.
“I did not detain her,” he said. “We took her to Licadho.”
Licadho investigator Am Sam Ath confirmed that his organization had received Tim Norn from SRP officials. He said that Tim Norn had told Licadho investigators that she feared for her life because SRP officials had speculated that the CPP might kill her.
Am Sam Ath said that Tim Norn appeared to be in great mental distress, to the point that the rights group took her to Calmette Hospital, where she stayed for a few days before returning home.
At no point did Tim Norn say she had been held against her will, he said.
“It was not illegal detention,” he said. “She didn’t say that SRP officials detained her.”
Tioulong Saumura was out of the country Monday and could not be reached, but SRP leader Sam Rainsy, who is Tioulong Saumura’s husband, denied that any intimidation by party officials had occurred.
“It is not the culture and habit of the SRP; threats and pressure is only the culture of the CPP,” he said, adding that he did not believe any SRP officials would be arrested.