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Defence Ministry’s war of words

The Defence Ministry has reacted angrily to statements made by opposition party spokesman Yim Sovann that it says have insulted the “honour and dignity” of the armed forces.

Last Thursday, Sovann told a local media outlet that “troops that serve the illegal government are also illegal” in response to alleged comments by Defence Minister Tea Banh that the armed forces would steadfastly protect the Hun Sen government against opposition party demonstrations.

“Once more, the spokesman of the Ministry of National Defence declares and absolutely condemns [this] insult on the honour and dignity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces,” the statement released yesterday says.

The statement also condemns the opposition’s boycott of parliament and holding of demonstrations as being unconstitutional, and again pledges the army’s support for the government.

“In the situation where the national security and social order are destroyed, affecting national harmony and progress, [RCAF] must absolutely protect the constitution and protect the royal government . . . selected by the legal parliament.”

Yesterday, Sovann said he had no intention to generally insult the armed forces, but only meant to condemn those individual soldiers who use violence against protesters.

“I did not speak about the army [in general]. I spoke about individuals,” he said. “[Individuals] who commit a wrong does not mean the whole army committed a wrong. I respect the army that defends the nation, but I condemn any individual who shoots citizens.”

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