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Saturday, October 11, 1997

Hun Sen reinstates Ho Sok suspects

Hun Sen Reinstates Ho Sok Suspects

Written by Jason Barber and Chea Sotheacheath
Friday, 10 October 1997 (Phnom Penh Post)

H UN SEN personally signed an order reinstating three police generals suspended from their positions in connection with the execution of Funcinpec stalwart Ho Sok, officials have confirmed.

The Second Prime Minister was requested to issue the order by the Director-General of the National Police, General Hok Lundy, who has been accused of participating in the killing.

Co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hockry did not sign the document. It was signed by Hun Sen in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), before his Sept 22 departure for a trip abroad.

Sources said the situation has raised tensions over the lines of authority between Sar Kheng and Hok Lundy, who are both senior CPP members, and the power of the Prime Minister to override his Minister.

Sar Kheng, contacted by telephone Oct 7, said: "I did not oppose that [the generals' reinstatement], but I would have liked to keep them [suspended] for a little longer while we are investigating.

"But now they have already been released... the story is over and I should not say more on that, to avoid any further problem in the future."

Earlier, Sar Kheng - in what observers interpreted as a sign of unhappiness at Hun Sen and Hok Lundy undermining his authority - reportedly went on public record as saying that he knows who killed Ho Sok.

"We have learned the identity of the killer," Sar Kheng reportedly told the Cambodia Daily newspaper Sept 23, the day after Hun Sen left Cambodia.

"I hope that the killer will be arrested soon," Sar Kheng was quoted as saying. He declined to name the suspect, saying: "You don't want to know such a sensitive thing."

Sar Kheng, subsequently contacted by the Post, claimed that he had said no such thing. "I don't know who the killer is. If I knew the killers, I would arrest them immediately," he said.

But one of his aides, General Khieu Sopheak, said: "I think that His Excellency Sar Kheng said that the killer has been identified. He also said that it was too early to move, that we have to let the police complete the investigation."

Khieu Sopheak confirmed that the three Ministry of Interior generals suspended after the killing had been reinstated by order of "the high Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, a four-star general, Samdech Hun Sen".

He said that Hun Sen had signed the order at the request of Hok Lundy, who had submitted a report to the Prime Minister explaining that "the three generals were not involved...in the killing".

Asked whether Sar Kheng and You Hockry had signed the reinstatement order themselves, Khieu Sopheak said there was no need for them to do so. Hun Sen had already signed it, he said, and "the Ministry of Interior respects the order from the very high position of Samdech Hun Sen".

Sopheak, however, denied that the approval of Hun Sen would be required before an arrest could be made in the Ho Sok case. "This is a criminal offense case; there is no need to ask the approval of the Commander-in-Chief, only the court."

Another senior police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not so sure. Asked whether Sar Kheng would pursue an arrest, the official replied: "In Cambodia, a Minister does not have full authority... he could be over-ruled by a Prime Minister, for example."

The official also referred to blurred lines of power between Hok Lundy and Sar Kheng, asking: "If the Director-General [of the National Police] has the rank of Minister, what are the lines of authority?"

After the July 5-6 fighting in Phnom Penh, in which he played an active role, Lundy was appointed an advisor - with the rank of Minister - to the co-Prime Ministers. Sar Kheng and Hok Lundy therefore hold the same rank, though Sar Kheng also holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister.

However, under a decree passed in late 1995, the Ministry of Interior's security forces are under the ultimate control of the co-Commanders-in-Chief of RCAF - the Prime Ministers. Sources said that it was under this decree, in one of the first times that it has been used, that Hun Sen ordered the generals' reinstatement.

Hok Lundy is a known close ally of Hun Sen, while Sar Kheng is widely considered a potential rival to the Second Prime Minister within the CPP.

Ho Sok - the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Interior and one of several Funcinpec officials accused by CPP of illegally bringing weapons and troops to Phnom Penh - was shot dead at the ministry's Phnom Penh headquarters after being captured by CPP forces July 7.

As pressure mounted on the government to bring those responsible to justice, three CPP police generals - Ma Chhoeun, in whose office Ho Sok was killed, his deputy Tharn Im and Thong Lim, the director of the ministry's criminal investigation department - were indefinitely suspended. The suspensions were ordered July 24 by Sar Kheng and his co-Minister, You Hockry (Funcinpec), who also established a team to investigate the murder.

Hok Lundy - who has previously denied any involvement in the killing - said Oct 7 that the generals' reinstatement had been proposed by the investigation team.

"In fact, the generals have no fault," he said by telephone. "Their mistake was just not providing security to protect Ho Sok from being killed... [they] did not order someone to kill Ho Sok."

Asked if the killer was known, Hok Lundy said the Post should ask the head of the investigation team, Luy Savun, a Funcinpec police officer. Savun declined to comment to the Post.

There have been persistent rumors that Ho Sok was killed by Hok Lundy or by the police chief's bodyguards, culminating in a public accusation by Julio Jeldres, the King's official biographer.

In a Sept 9 letter to the Post, Jeldres claimed that information from an unidentified witness to Ho Sok's murder implicated Hok Lundy in the killing. CPP officials who denied that Hok Lundy killed Ho Sok were being "economical with the truth," Jeldres wrote.

Ho Sok's widow, now in exile in Thailand, has written to the UN Secretary-General accusing Hun Sen and Hok Lundy of responsibility for her husband's murder.

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