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Funcinpec calls for coup justice years after ‘coup’

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
Funcinpec are calling for justice for 1997 coup. Supplied

Twenty years on from the day Prime Minister Hun Sen seized power from co-premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Funcinpec is seeking justice for party officials killed in the coup.

Funcinpec vice-president You Hok Kry told local media the party will never forget those killed in the events of July 5-6, 1997, insisting the government investigate the deaths.

Mr Hun Sen has always maintained he was forced to take power from Prince Ranariddh, who had allegedly been planning a takeover with the help of Khmer Rouge fighters and foreign weapons, smuggled into the capital.

“We have not forgotten it. We still remember and we will continue to push for an investigation and justice for those who lost their lives,” Mr Hok Kry said.

According to the United Nations, between 41 and 60 Funcinpec officials were killed.

However, officials from the Ministry of Interior maintain there will be no investigation into the deaths.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat dismissed the accusation that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s troops launched a coup against Prince Ranariddh.

“That event was a crackdown on a revolution. Funcinpec had purchased modern weapons and brought Khmer Rouge forces into Phnom Penh. They wanted to make war again in Cambodia,” Mr Socheat said.

He added that if it had not been for Mr Hun Sen’s loyal troops, the country would have been plunged into violence.

“Bringing Khmer Rouge soldiers into Phnom Penh and illegally importing weapons was an act that could not be pardoned,” he said, adding the event could not be described as a coup, since Mr Hun Sen was already prime minister at the time.

According to a Human Right Watch report, evidence suggests the July 1997 power grab was not a CPP coup, but a coup by Mr Hun Sen.

It said other senior CPP figures, including party president Chea Sim, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Defence Minister Tea Banh, and head of the armed forces Ke Kim Yan, argued against military action and refused to mobilise their forces at the time, causing deep strains in the party.

Prince Ranariddh joined Funcinpec in 1983 and became the first prime minister of Cambodia, serving between 1993 and 1997 until he was ousted. He is currently Funcinpec president.

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