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PM lauds military for handling of protests

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday praised the country’s armed forces for their handling of last year’s election and its deadly aftermath, saying problems they met in 2013 were solved “successfully”.

Speaking at the Ministry of Interior’s annual meeting, Hun Sen avoided mentioning the fatal shooting of a man by security forces at Phnom Penh’s Kbal Thnal overpass in September, choosing to discuss violence only in terms of “planned” and “damaging” opposition protests.

“We met some problems caused by demonstrations and protests about the result of the election,” he said. “This activity damaged lives, public and private property, and threatened political and social stability and public order.”

The armed forces, Hun Sen added, must continue defending human rights and respecting democracy.

“In this spirit, [we] must join together to defend the constitution, our independence and our full sovereignty and guarantee our national institutions,” he said.

Hun Sen also hinted at more confrontation, saying that in the event of further attempts at “violence and unrest in society”, the armed forces must take “action according to the law”.

Yem Ponharith, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, rejected the assertion that his party had incited violence or disrupted public order.

“The Cambodia National Rescue Party held mass demonstrations many times without violence,” he said. “The army must be independent. I think recent [persuasion] has not been legal according to the constitution or international standards.”

Political analyst Kem Ley said it was a good idea to defend the constitution, but added that Hun Sen’s government itself had violated it by banning people from holding public demonstrations since security forces shot dead four people during a garment strike in early January.

“The constitution also bans the armed forces from shooting people,” he said. “Mr Hun Sen has been abusing the constitution, too.”

Since September, six civilians have been shot dead by security forces. The government has yet to take action against perpetrators of the incidents.

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