The Sam Rainsy Party held a Buddhist ceremony yesterday at its Phnom Penh headquarters to mark the 14th anniversary of the partisan violence that took place in Phnom Penh in 1997.
Speaking to a gathering via a video link from Paris, Sam Rainsy said: “A hundred military commanders who were loyal to the royalist Funcinpec Party were arrested, tortured and killed.”
He argued that 14 years after the violence, there were some in Funcinpec who would rather forget the events of 1997, as it would jeopardize their political status.
“They are really afraid of the CPP and the forces of Prime Minister Hun Sen. It is unacceptable to not speak about it. It is a war crime and a crime against humanity,” Mr Rainsy said.
Beginning on July 5, 1997, forces for the CPP and Funcinpec Party, then in a power-sharing arrangement, faced off in the city, resulting in then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen consolidating his power.
Mr Rainsy yesterday spoke of his belief that justice could not be served in Cambodia. “The International Criminal Court would be able to hand down sentences for crimes against humanity such as those committed in the 1997 coup,” he said. “I have submitted a complaint to that court against Hun Sen.”
Funcinpec Great Leader Keo Puth Rasmey confirmed that his party did not commemorate the anniversary, stating that they would mark it at the same time as Pchum Ben. “We are not a big party, we do this to save money. We do not wish to spend the money twice. There is no other reason,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony in Kandal province yesterday morning, referred to the commemoration ceremony.
“Today, they commemorate the anniversary of the coup, but [Funcinpec Executive President] Nhiek Bun Chhay is not doing it…. This time that year , Nhiek Bun Chhay was fighting in the city…. Funcinpec is not doing it, but an opposition is commemorating the anniversary of the coup. Who did what to whom? Be clear,” said Mr Hun Sen.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha and Alice Burke)