Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bracing for protests, authorities to prevent citizens from entering capital for Sokha trial

Bracing for protests, authorities to prevent citizens from entering capital for Sokha trial

Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks to officials on measures for suppressing demonstrations ahead of CNRP President Kem Sokha’s trial at a Friday meeting in Phnom Penh.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks to officials on measures for suppressing demonstrations ahead of CNRP President Kem Sokha’s trial at a Friday meeting in Phnom Penh. Fresh News

Bracing for protests, authorities to prevent citizens from entering capital for Sokha trial

Anticipating popular unrest surrounding the “treason” trial of opposition leader Kem Sokha, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Friday instructed provincial governors, police chiefs and officers to block people from travelling to the capital and to prevent any attempts at demonstrations.

The remarks come against the backdrop of an intensifying crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which, in addition to the arrest of its leader, is facing dissolution under controversial amendments to the Kingdom’s Law on Political Parties after the Ministry of Interior filed an official complaint earlier this month.

Speaking at a workshop on Friday, Kheng accused the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party of having staged a “failed colour revolution”, adding that any attempts to conduct protests or demonstrations needed to be shut down immediately – saying authorities had made a mistake in not preventing provincial Cambodians from entering the capital during 2013’s postelection protests.

He said it was likely CNRP supporters would again come to the city for Sokha’s trial – a situation that needed to be prevented at the provinces.

“They will come to Phnom Penh and we should not only prevent them from coming, but we also must go down there to investigate these issues.”

The opposition staged numerous nonviolent protests in the wake of the disputed 2013 elections, most famously holding a weeks-long sit-in at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park. That sit-in was ultimate dispersed when Military Police surrounded the park, and plainclothes thugs stormed in, brutally beating unarmed opposition supporters and tearing down structures that had been erected there. The dispersal followed violent wage protests on Veng Sreng Boulevard – fatally suppressed by police – that authorities have long blamed on the opposition.

Subsequent nonviolent protests in 2014 were repeatedly met with violent responses by Daun Penh district security guards.

But Kheng on Friday seemed to blame the opposition for inciting violent reactions from the authorities, saying that officials needed to be aware of this tactic.

“They use the word ‘positive change’, but then they incite state authorities to use violence. This is in order for them [CNRP] to gather more forces to topple the state – this is the issue,” Kheng said.

The Interior Ministry recently held a training workshop for Information Ministry officials schooling them on the government’s narrative of Sokha’s arrest, and asking them to ensure journalists did not err in reporting the government’s line.

On Friday, Kheng parroted the government’s rationale for Sokha’s arrest, accusing the opposition of fomenting a purported colour revolution – a term used for nonviolent protest movements in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Chhay Sinarith doubled down on this line, insisting there was evidence to prove the opposition was mounting a revolution with the aid of foreign organisations, but that a lack of popular support had stopped them from succeeding.

He also called for stricter implementation of the law to close “loopholes allowing attempts to stage the toppling of the legitimate government”. Kheng’s comments follow similar assertions from other senior government and armed forces officials. Armed forces Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun asked his commanders to crack down on any “extremist elements” last week.

Kampong Speu Governor Vei Samnang, who also attended Friday’s meeting, said he was confident that no one from his province would be able to launch any demonstrations. Without giving details, he claimed there were commune- and district-level meetings of opposition supporters to “stand up and continue the struggle”, suggesting they were planning activities that would cause incitement.

“When they unleash their activities, we will stop them on behalf of the authorities for public order [and] security.”CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua, who left the country after being warned of her imminent arrest, said the opposition did not plan to hold any protests, adding that it would be detrimental to the government to crack down on supporters wishing to observe Sokha’s trial.

“They will like to express themselves and they will want to be at court,” she said yesterday. “To crush the people will not benefit the CPP at all.”

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Police arrest Canadian with 167kg of drugs

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on November 15 placed a Canadian national in pre-trial detention in connection with smuggling and possessing 167kg of illegal drugs. Deputy National Police chief in charge of anti-drug enforcement Mak Chito told The Post on November 15 that the man was arrested