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Cambodia's 1998 Election

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(Page 6 of 9)

The Crackdown

September 7, 1998

By SRP Staff

The leader of the Cambodian regime, Hun Sen, said at a press conference today that the leaders of the current protests will be arrested, and that Democracy Square will be cleared by midnight tonight. As of 2:30 pm riot police armed with rifles are in a standoff with peaceful student protesters at the Ministry of Information, and have threatened to fire on them if they do not disperse. We understand that military police have already received orders to arrest Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy by this evening. Also as of 2:30 pm, Rainsy was meeting with Lakhan Mehrotra, the UN Secretary General's Personal Representative to Cambodia.

The Cabinet of the President of the Sam Rainsy Party urgently appeals to the Cambodian regime to de-escalate the situation for the sake of peace and democracy in Cambodia. We make the following comments:

1. The Sam Rainsy Party has no information about this morning's grenade explosion at Hun Sen's house in Phnom Penh. The regime is using every pretext it can find to justify the illegal and anti-democratic actions it seems to be preparing to take against the peaceful political opposition. 2. Any arrest of Sam Rainsy or other opposition leaders will be in direct violation of the agreement between the Government of Cambodia and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

3. Any crackdown on peaceful protesters will be a direct violation of their human rights and their Constitutional rights as Cambodian citizens. Their right to demonstrate has been affirmed by Thomas Hammarberg, the UN Secretary Generals Special Representative for Human Rights. 4. The regime's preparations for illegal action against its political opponents show that they are desperate to avoid any examination of the election results, even though the law requires it and the measures we ask for would be easy to take.

If it is possible, party president Sam Rainsy will speak in Democracy Square today, at about 5:00 pm. Today's speech is to include a report from the third day of the meeting in Siem Reap. However, Rainsy plans to devote the bulk of the speech to one of the most critical issues facing the nation: How can Cambodia regain international recognition and restore the foreign aid that it still needs?

The main points of the talk:

· Cambodia is still heavily dependent on foreign aid from governments and NGOs to meet the needs of its people. Meeting IMF requirements is essential for regaining foreign aid. A legitimate, stable government is needed to ensure acceptance by the UN, ASEAN, and other international organizations. · The next government must invite summit meetings with neighboring countries to resolve disputes over borders, immigration, and other issues, so international contracts can be made and honored and to reduce historic frictions.

· The next government must commit itself to a partnership with NGOs to create a coherent and effective national program. Budgetary transparency is critically important. Donors must know their efforts complement the government's efforts, rather than being offset by corruption. · Dependence on foreign aid must be gradually reduced. The Cambodian government must progressively take primary responsibility for areas where foreign aid is now still necessary.

For more information please call 855-12-802-062 or 855-23-215-375.


The destruction of Democracy Square and the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters is the final proof that the Hun Sen regime cares nothing about democracy or freedom of expression. Hun Sen will do whatever is necessary to retain his grip on power.

The crackdown is the direct result of a deeply flawed election carried out with consistent disregard for the law by institutions that were not neutral. It was a systematic effort by Hun Sen to legitimize himself in the eyes of the international community. If Hun Sen could have won without cheating then he would have done so, but it seems this was not possible. When the opposition refused to drop its demands that the election results be investigated according the law, Hun Sen evidently realized that the victory he won through cheating would never survive an investigation.

The election committee and Constitutional Council, both of them filled with ruling party supporters, refused to consider the opposition's complaints. When the King hosted a meeting to look at the technical problems with the election, Hun Sen tried desperately to change the agenda. When the opposition stuck to its promise not to accept the results of an election that appears to have been rigged, Hun Sen cracked down on the protesters.

The crackdown is a show of force meant to destroy democracy in Cambodia, to terrorize the people who found their voices in Democracy Square, and to distract attention from the real issue that the people were protesting: cheating in the election.

Hun Sen's actions today prove that he is the primary obstacle to democracy and progress in Cambodia. More than ever, the Sam Rainsy Party maintains its insistence on a legal election process and refuses to participate in a National Assembly that does not credibly reflect the will of the people.

We are relieved that the casualties of today's crackdown do not appear to be as numerous or as serious as we feared they might be. We attribute this largely to the efforts of the international community to convince Hun Sen to moderate his actions and we are deeply grateful to the diplomatic corps for those efforts. Meanwhile we consider Hun Sen to be directly and personally responsible for the damage, injuries and deaths his orders inflicted on Cambodians who were only exercising their rights.

Now we ask the international community to make a sustained and consistent effort to help bring democracy to Cambodia, to support transparency and legality in the democratic process, and to back a serious investigation into the election result as required by law and without regard to previous assessments they may have made.

The Cambodian people will not give up their rights to free expression and their hope for democracy. The people may change the form of their struggle because of today's acts of repression, but they will not give up the struggle.

September 9, 1998


Party president Sam Rainsy rejects the accusations leveled at him by officials of the Hun Sen regime, including the accusation that he called for security forces to shoot Hun Sen.

In fact, Rainsy has appealed to soldiers and police, saying that if they were ordered to shoot at the crowd, they should turn their guns toward those who made such an illegal order. He did not appeal to them to shoot anyone.

The regime has fabricated, distorted, or falsely attributed to Rainsy all of the acts that the regime is using to justify its crackdown on peaceful protesters for democracy. It is the same tactic that the regime has used many times before to harass, intimidate and imprison its political opponents and to justify its anti-democratic actions.

We appeal to the international community to reject the charade presented by the regime in its effort to prevent examination of the election results. The Sam Rainsy Party would welcome the opportunity to review and examine these accusations before any neutral body of inquiry.



Today the Cambodian regime's security forces at Pochentong Airport prevented Kem Sokha, a Member of the National Assembly and the chair of the Assembly's Commission on Human Rights, from leaving Cambodia.

Sokha is not under arrest or accused of any crime, but the regime has carried out its threat to close the borders to those it considers opposition leaders. In doing so it has violated Article 40 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom to leave the country for all Cambodians, and Article 80, which specifies that a Member of the Assembly can be accused, arrested or detained only by permission of the Assembly itself. Such violations have become the rule in Cambodia, not the exception. The regime's purpose is to intimidate its political opponents. This move is similar to the regime's effective detention of Sam Rainsy, carried out through the threat of arrest.

The democratic opposition has made a substantial move to resolve the political crisis in Cambodia. By dropping two of our four demands, we have shown our earnest desire to end the crisis in Cambodia, while keeping our promise to the people to struggle for democracy and the rule of law.

But instead of compromising, the regime is cracking down harder on its political opponents at all levels. Police and gangs of hired thugs have invaded pagodas and schools, attacked crowds, and shot citizens down in cold blood.

The violent reaction of the regime to peaceful demonstrations was inexcusable from the outset. Now the regime is trying to teach the Cambodian people that resistance is useless and that their Constitutional rights to free speech and assembly are worth nothing. Like the murders of scores of opposition activists before and after the election, the regime's crimes are certain to go unpunished as long as Hun Sen remains in power.

We are especially concerned that the regime will take advantage of the chaos it is creating to commit the worst kinds of violations against its perceived opponents, as it has in the past. If the current situation is allowed to persist, we may never know what damage has been done.

We, the democratic opposition, appeal to the international community once again to take all appropriate measures to stop this regime's ongoing assault on the people and their rights before it is too late.

- END -

September 11, 1998


This morning at least one gang of hundreds of men armed with sticks and iron bars wrapped in newspapers are roaming through central Phnom Penh in the area of Psar Tmei. There are reports that they are beating people and may have killed one person already.

Many of the men appear to be carrying guns under their clothes; this was confirmed in one case. The police do not interfere with this group as they do with the unarmed democracy protesters. A similar though smaller gang was seen moving up Street 63 on Tuesday night, escorted by police. One member of that gang said that they were hired by the sangkat (district) chief.

These are crude attempts by the Hun Sen regime to terrorize the Cambodian people into giving up their right to free speech and assembly. It is an intentionally dangerous tactic. Beyond the reign of terror they are hired to create, it is inevitable that if these unofficial hired thug squads continue to roam, they will run across unarmed protesters with increasingly tragic results.

Such a tragedy, if not prevented, will not be the fault of the unarmed, peaceful Cambodian citizens who are expressing their desire for freedom and democracy. It will be the result of the regime's provocation and assaults on innocent people.

We support the right of free speech and assembly for all. However this does not include gangs who openly carry weapons and have no purpose other than threatening and inflicting bodily harm.

We have asked the supporters of democracy to refrain from violence at all times. We urge the authorities to stop organizing these gangs and to respect the rights of all Cambodians to assemble peacefully and to speak freely. We furthermore call the attention of the international community to the numerous and confusing reports of missing people and missing bodies. These are increasingly difficult to verify as the regime purposefully creates additional and unnecessary chaos.

There is no excuse for the irresponsible, illegal, and violent response of the regime to the peaceful activities of political protesters. The present crisis in Phnom Penh is the creation and the responsibility of the regime alone.

STATEMENT September 12, 1998


The Sam Rainsy Party associates itself with the decision by FUNCINPEC to call off the demonstration for tomorrow at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh. We are not encouraging our supporters or anyone to rally at the stadium or in the area of the stadium.

This cancellation is not due to the "denial of permission" for the demonstration by the authorities. They do not have the legal right to deny permission for it, as the Constitution guarantees the rights of free speech, assembly, and demonstration of political opinion.

We are, however, concerned about the safety of the Cambodian people, who have demonstrated their bravery but are now at risk of attack by thugs hired by the regime. We will continue to find legal and effective ways to promote democracy, and these ways may include legal and peaceful protest.

September 14, 1998


The following are extracts from recent public statements by Sam Rainsy in regard to the political issues of national independence, illegal immigration, and border disputes.


Please note Sam Rainsy has publicly made similar statements, before and after the elections, about the necessity to avoid violence. However, he has often been either misquoted or quoted out of context in reference to the current Vietnamese installed leadership ("Yuon Puppet"), the international drug trafficking (comparison with Noriega of Panama), and State-induced terrorism (comparison with Khadafi of Libya).

He has raised issues of illegal immigration and border disputes between Cambodia and her neighbouring countries, and insisted they be resolved in legal and peaceful ways.

Furthermore, when he appealed to the national armed forces to turn their guns to those who would order them to shoot at a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, he meant that the armed forces should instead protect the people from the tyrants (comparison with popular uprisings against Marcos of the Philippines). Sam Rainsy has never asked the armed forces to shoot at any Cambodian leader in particular.


"Democrats are those who respect human rights. Human rights apply to all human beings, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Among human rights are the rights to life, to dignity, and to freedom.

In my capacity as a human being, a Khmer, a Buddhist and a democrat, I urge you not to commit any act of violence, especially against the Yuon (Vietnamese) people. Don't hurt anybody; don't touch a single hair of anybody. Not only violence is morally wrong, it would damage our cause; our only cause is democracy. Let's keep it pure, and not tarnish it with any act of violence."

--Sam Rainsy, Saturday, September 5, 1998, between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm, Democracy Square, Phnom Penh, in front of approximately 8,000 people.

"Don't fall into the trap laid by the present communist government. They want us to use violence in order to crack down on us and to tarnish our image. We are accused of being racist. Recent acts of violence against the Yuon (Vietnamese) have damaged the cause of democracy in Cambodia. I urge you to avoid any form of violence. Let's make sure that our demonstration today is absolutely peaceful".

--Sam Rainsy, Sunday, September 6, 1998, between 8:00 am and 9:00 am, Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, in front of approximately 12,000 people.

"We have to raise moral standards in our society. We must start doing this by respecting human life. According to Lord Buddha's teaching, life is sacred and we must show compassion and tolerance. We must not act like the Khmer Rouge and the communists who condemn people without evidence. When the communists think that there is one culprit whom they can not identify in a group of one hundred people, they do not hesitate to punish the whole group, even though they know that in the group, there are ninety-nine innocent people. We must not act like the communists; we must not accuse anybody without unquestionable evidence. Yesterday I appealed to you to stick to non-violence, to respect human life and dignity, to respect other people's property, and public property. This morning, at the Olympic Stadium, I made the same appeal. And now you hear the same appeal from me again".

--Sam Rainsy, Sunday, September 6, 1998, between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm, Democracy Square, Phnom Penh, in front of approximately 10,000 people.

For further information, please call 023-215-375, or Rich Garella on 012-802-062.


MEDIA ADVISORY September 16, 1998


Party president Sam Rainsy will meet with King Norodom Sihanouk in Siem Reap on Thursday, September 17. The agenda is not specified. Six other SRP representatives will accompany Rainsy, including Vice President Kong Korm, Deputy Secretary-General Meng Rita, Chief of Cabinet Eng Chhay Eang, and legal adviser Ou Bunlong.

The group will travel with a United Nations escort provided by the Office of the Secretary-General's Personal Representative in Cambodia (OSGPRC) and an escort provided by the government.

Rainsy will leave the OSGPRC by 5:30 Thursday morning. He will go to the parkway in front of the hotel for a brief wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the democracy protesters who have been murdered by government security forces in the past week. However he will be unable to make any statements to the press. The convoy will then proceed to Pochentong Airport.

The flight departs at 6:15am and arrives in Siem Reap at 7:00am. The meeting with the King is scheduled to begin at 10:00am at the King's palace. On Thursday afternoon, Royal Air Cambodge flights from Siem Reap arrive at Pochentong at 4:10pm, 6:00pm and 6:10pm.

The meeting will mark the third time Rainsy has left the OSGPRC in the ten days since Monday, September 7, when two grenade explosions in Hun Sen's compound signaled the beginning of the government's violent crackdown on democracy protesters. He has left twice for brief meetings with Prince Norodom Ranariddh, but has otherwise been unable to conduct any political activities. Tioulong Saumura, a Member-elect of the National Assembly who is married to Rainsy, also has taken refuge at the OSGPRC under the same conditions.

The OSGPRC is located in the basement of the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana on Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh. Contrary to popular reports, Rainsy has been sleeping on the floor inside the OSGPRC, accompanied by UN monitors even for trips to the restroom outside the office.

It is the informed opinion of the Cabinet of the President of SRP that Rainsy would be at grave risk if he were to leave the OSGPRC for any reason other than a meeting with the King.

For more information, call Rich Garella on 855-12-802-062. Please note that there can be no interviews with Rainsy or with Saumura until further notice.

Extracts from Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper, which is aligned with the Cambodian regime. Issue published Sept 16, dated Sept 17.



So far, 68 officials from the opposition parties have been prohibited from leaving the country as long as the investigation is not over.

General Khieu Sopheak, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told Rasmei Kampuchea on September 15 that the interdiction was issued following the grenade attack on the mansion of Second Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen on September 7, in order to make an investigation. He added that the interdiction was aimed only at leaders and important members of political parties who took part in illegal demonstrations of Mr. Sam Rainsy and Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The list of 68 people not allowed to leave the country included 58 politicians [MPs-elect from the opposition] and 14 [sic] officials from the armed forces. Prince Ranariddh and Mr. Sam Rainsy are on the list, as well as FUNCINPEC Secretary-General Tol Lah…, Mrs. Tioulong Saumura [MP-elect and Rainsy's wife],…

Important officials who took part in Sam Rainsy's illegal demonstrations are important targets who must be investigated first before being allowed to leave the country.

The present interdiction was issued after grenades exploded at Samdech Hun Sen's mansion and there are suspicions that the attack was conducted by terrorists from the illegal demonstrations.

Samdech Hun Sen declared on September 7 that all officials who had led illegal demonstrations or who had been involved in those demonstrations were not allowed to leave the country as long as the investigation was not over yet. Mr. Khieu Sopheak said that the statement by Samdech Hun Sen was enough to explain the current status of the suspects.

Mr. Sok An of the Council of Ministers stated on September 14 that anybody who faced criminal charges might not be allowed to leave the country.

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