The Sam Rainsy Party on Thursday returned vehicles, weapons and a personal bodyguard detail to the Interior Ministry because the party feels that its leader, Sam Rainsy, is safe enough to do without them, officials said.
After Sam Rainsy’s return from exile in February, the Interior Ministry provided the SRP leader with a 12-man security detachment armed with four AK-47 rifles and two K59 handguns.
“The current political situation and security in Cambodia is stable,” SRP Acting President Kong Korm wrote in a Thursday letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng explaining the move.
Sam Rainsy has also recently dropped two motorbike escorts and the lead car from his convoy belonging to the party, but the party still retains 100 volunteer bodyguards, said SRP Acting Secretary-General Meng Rita.
“The [remaining] bodyguards don’t have any weapons,” he said. “They provide security with their teeth and bodies.”
SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said that if the Interior Ministry guards are ever needed again, the party will ask for them back. “This is not about politics,” he said.
Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said his supporters recently told him they thought the SRP was in league with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP. He added that Sam Rainsy may have returned the bodyguards to try and distance himself from Hun Sen.
“Sam Rainsy returned the bodyguards because the party’s supporters suspect that the SRP is in line with the government,” he said.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, agreed.
“The SRP wanted to show that the party has no relationship with the ruling party,” he said.
The government agreed to provide the security detail after the SRP agreed to support the recent Constitutional amendment allowing for the formation of a government with only a simple majority of seats in parliament, said government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
He added that the return of the bodyguards does not indicate a problem in the relationship between the CPP and SRP.
“We don’t have any tension between the two parties,” he said.