Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unrest to be met by military, Prime Minister says

Unrest to be met by military, Prime Minister says

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event marking Veterans Day yesterday in Phnom Penh. FACEBOOK

Unrest to be met by military, Prime Minister says

Telling a crowd of soldiers that the ruling CPP’s achievements must be “protected”, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday vowed a military crackdown on any election-related protests while wielding a familiar weapon: the threat of civil war should the ruling party lose the upcoming elections.

Dressed in a military uniform and addressing a crowd of 3,000 veterans and active duty officers to commemorate Veterans Day, the premier, a five-star general, delivered some of his most hostile rhetoric in recent weeks, returning to a theme long present during his more than three decades at Cambodia’s helm.

Calling the CPP the “creator of the nation”, the premier savaged the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, saying they have done “nothing for the people”.

He said his party’s achievements must be “protected” at any cost, warning on several occasions during the speech that war would follow should his government be ousted.

“The Cambodian People’s Party must win elections, every election … War will happen if the CPP does not control the country anymore,” he told the audience on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island.

The CPP’s grip on the country came under threat during the last national election in 2013, when the CNRP won almost half the popular vote, before alleging voter fraud and taking to Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park with mass nonviolent protests. Polling day itself, meanwhile, saw groups of opposition supporters block voters they accused of being Vietnamese from casting a ballot. Anger over the issue sparked a riot in the capital’s Meanchey district.

Hun Sen vowed a swift response to any disturbance this time around. “Remember, in the 2017 and 2018 [elections], if your group does such activities again, the armed forces will crack down immediately. If war happens, let it be,” he said.

“I would like to warn beforehand,” he continued, in an apparent message to the opposition. “Don’t let the 2013 situation happen again, both before the election and after the election. You are meeting to plan to destroy the royal government, but royal government forces are also defending your place too.”

Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann declined to respond to the premier’s warning, reiterating instead that the election’s outcome “is the decision of the people, not the ruling party”.

Reached yesterday, analyst Sebastian Strangio, the author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said that the premier’s threats were familiar, though they may carry an “added hint of menace” because of anxiety over the election.

In some ways, Strangio said, the premier was speaking quite accurately about potential chaos following a change of power. Given Cambodia’s lack of independent institutions, any attempt at a transition of power would lead to conflict – though likely not “war”, he said.

“The CPP have created a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Strangio said. “Civil war brings up images of people going to the jungles, but what it more refers to is political instability and fighting between powerful people.”

The PM’s long-time ally and Deputy Commander in Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Kun Kim also addressed the crowd yesterday, reinforcing long-running doubts about the military leadership’s neutrality by warning attendees to stay loyal to the CPP.

“We are all supporting our Samdech [Hun Sen],” said the four-star general, who has been described by Human Rights Watch as the premier’s “axe man”.

“We truly support [him], speaking frankly with each other,” he continued, before warning soldiers to “be careful of being struck by lightning”, an apparent reference to the consequences of disloyalty.

The crowd then broke into a chant of support for the prime minster. “We support Samdech . . . Veterans across the country support Samdech as the Cambodian prime minister for this mandate and other mandates, and as president of the veterans association,” Kim continued.

“Some brothers and sisters forgot and believed the propaganda and other tricks and served another party, but now those brothers and sisters have returned to live with Samdech president.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Bosba: The first Khmer woman composer from UK’s Cambridge

    Bosba Panh is just 25 years old, but she’s already accomplished some impressive milestones for herself and the Kingdom. On July 24, she graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge as the first Khmer woman composer and Khmer music graduate ever at

  • ‘Golden’ Angkor Wat likely due to natural phenomenon: ANA

    Pictures and video clips of the Angkor Wat temple, its spires seemingly coated in gold, have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media, prompting a sense of wonder among those who have seen them. Hong Sam Ath, who took the pictures and

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway