Outspoken government critic Sam Rainsy took another step against Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior CPP officials on Sunday by announcing he will form an association for people abused by government policy in the 1980s.
Sam Rainsy, parliamentarian and president of his self-named party, said the Kor-5 Victim Association will organize people allegedly victimized by a forced relocation and labor policy implemented by the men who led the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in the mid-1980s.
“I appeal to all the victims, those who lost fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and the handicapped soldiers, of the Kor-5 project,” Sam Rainsy told more than 2,000 people at his party headquarters Sunday morning.
Sam Rainsy has regularly blasted Hun Sen as leading a corrupt and brutal administration. He also supports passage of a US Senate resolution that accuses Hun Sen of war crimes.
Top CPP officials said Sunday that Sam Rainsy had the right to set up the victims organization but that he is misrepresenting the Kor-5 policy.
Many current top CPP members held leading positions in the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea regime in the mid-1980s. The program, known as Kor-5, made use of civilians to assist soldiers of the Phnom Penh government in border areas.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith on Sunday referred to the policy as “for cutting trees near the front line.” He defended it as a wartime need, referring to the fighting the Phnom Penh government was engaged in at the time with the border forces of the Khmer Rouge, the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front and Funcinpec.
“They have a right to form the association,” Khieu Kanharith said by telephone, “but they have to show the reality of why we had Kor-5.
“It is because at that time they brought troops from the Thai border to fight us. They had allied with the Khmer Rouge.”
Chea Soth, a CPP standing committee member, said Sunday that the scheme helped to protect the country.
“The workers helped the armed forces at the military line to help defend the country,” he said. “We did not send our people to step on land mines, but to support in the fight against the enemy.”
Chea Soth, 70, said the people were not conscripted.
“The people went voluntarily because they knew that their country at that time needed them,” he said. “We did not force them to go.”
Sam Rainsy said the association will be formed “immediately” and it will prepare a complaint to be filed with the UN and an international court.
He named Hun Sen, who rose from foreign minister to become prime minister in 1985, as the target of the complaint.
Sam Rainsy has been a fierce critic of Hun Sen since he was removed as finance minister in 1994. The government claimed Sam Rainsy was not a team player, but political observers said he was replaced because he fought corruption too vigorously.
He said the Kor-5 project was similar to the brutal policies of the Khmer Rouge. “They sent people to the forest to cut trees, to clear land mines, and they got malaria and went hungry,” Sam Rainsy charged.
(Additional reporting by Chris Decherd)
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