Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hun Sen Confident As Rivals Flee City

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Coup leader Hun Sen declared himself Cambodia's "captain'' Thursday, but Southeast Asia's regional bloc dealt him a first major diplomatic setback by postponing his nation's membership.


Relaxed and joking, Hun Sen convened a cabinet meeting and spoke to reporters for the first time since he deposed his rival co-premier, Norodom Ranariddh, in a bloody military coup during the weekend.


"No one can dissolve this government,'' Hun Sen told reporters, warning other nations against interfering.


Opposition members of parliament continued to flee the battle-scarred capital in fear for their lives, joining thousands of foreigners and Cambodians taking an increasing number of military and charter flights from the airport to safety in other countries.


"What we have worked for for so long has been destroyed by one man. He's unacceptable,'' said Son Chhay, an opposition legislator, weeping as he boarded a plane to Thailand.


The capital was completely under Hun Sen's control following the weekend coup, which the newspaper Cambodge-Soir estimated left 70 dead. Factories and homes were destroyed and the burned-out hulks of tanks and cars still littered the streets.


A Malaysian company, Cambodian Garment Factory, suffered $28 million in damage due to rampaging troops smashing machines and carting off equipment. Hun Sen, whom opponents have long accused of corruption, has reportedly offered to pay for the losses from his own pocket.


Swaggering police loyal to Hun Sen turned up Thursday at the airport in cars and motorcycles they had looted and stared as the mostly foreign passengers filed through a makeshift customs area in the pillaged VIP lounge. They did not interfere with about 15 heavily armed French troops maintaining airport security.


There were unconfirmed reports of police and soldiers stealing from evacuees on the road to the airport. Other travelers said the troops appeared to be satisfied with intimidation.


The status of fighting in the northwest, where Ranariddh's royalist FUNCINPEC party is strong, was unclear. Hun Sen officials flew reporters to the cities of Siem Reap, near the ancient Angkor temples, and Battambang to show all was peaceful.


Siem Reap was clearly held by Hun Sen forces. However, foreigners there said artillery fire had been heard continually 20 kilometers west of town for several days.


Ranariddh, who has urged his followers to resist, fled to France before the outbreak of violence and has appealed to other nations not to recognize Hun Sen's coup and to condemn his actions. Hun Sen said Ranariddh's party would have to choose a new leader, but it was still part of the government.