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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Colour’ coups on group’s agenda

CNRP president Sam Rainsy acknowledges the crowd in 2013 during the opposition’s occupation of Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in the wake of disputed national elections.
CNRP president Sam Rainsy acknowledges the crowd in 2013 during the opposition’s occupation of Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in the wake of disputed national elections. Pha Lina

‘Colour’ coups on group’s agenda

A cross-ministry task force, convened to deal specifically with protests, has added stopping “colour revolutions” and “anarchy” to its mandate, according to recently obtained documents.

According to the 2016-2019 action plan for the Committee to Solve Strikes and Demonstrations of All Targets, the body’s scope has been broadened to include the reference to the largely peaceful people-based movements, which have toppled regimes in the former Soviet bloc.

The group must now “stop and prevent inciters” who “cheat people to join their illegal anarchic action, commit violence, destroy private property and states in order to create a colour revolution to destroy peace, stability and topple the legitimate government”, the document reads.

The directive also tasks the National Police, National Military Police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ high command to develop plans in line with the threat. The committee is tasked with checking and ensuring the implementation of these plans and reporting to the premier, it states.

Reached yesterday, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said the new emphasis on preventing “colour revolution” was justified.

“When a problem occurs, we need to maintain security and we cannot allow a small group to damage the peace,” he said, adding the government did not want a repeat of the January 2014 protests that followed the disputed 2013 election.

Those ended in violence when government forces fired automatic weapons into a crowd of rioters on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard, killing five.

“The [prime minister] has assigned all capable people and we can guarantee it,” he said.

The characterisation of “colour revolution” has been used by the government loosely to refer to any protest movement it does not permit.

In this category, it has included the opposition party and people campaigning for the release of prisoners held on widely criticised charges. As political tension has risen in the shadow of approaching elections, the government’s rhetoric has become increasingly hostile to organised dissent.

The anti-protest committee, chaired by Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng, was beefed up after the Veng Sreng shootings to include top military and police figures. Among these is the premier’s eldest son, lieutenant general Hun Manet, who leads the Defence Ministry’s anti-terror unit.

The premier’s second son, Hun Manith, a two-star general and head of the military’s intelligence unit, is also thought to have replaced his predecessor, ex-military intelligence chief Chea Dara, on the committee.

Reached yesterday, lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Cheam Channy, who handles security issues for the party, said any moves to utilise security forces to pressure, weaken or threaten the opposition were illegal.

Though he added the premier’s stacking of the committee with loyalists within the police and military was not unexpected. “He needs to strengthen his party, therefore he needs to place the people he can trust.”

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