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PM warns of ‘terrorists’ in opposition

Arrests are in the offing for groups of armed terrorists who are hiding among Cambodia’s opposition, intent on toppling both the Cambodian People’s Party and the Kingdom’s monarchy, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned yesterday.

Speaking at the inauguration of a Buddhist school in Prey Veng province, the premier launched into a lengthy exposé of the alleged militant insurrectionists supposedly honeycombing the country’s opposition, and made it clear that their guise as opposition members would not be enough to shelter them from the long arm of the law.

“Entire groups have been hiding in the opposition party, and I would like to send a message to the opposition, that when these people are arrested, don’t say they’re just members of the opposition – they are terrorists,” Hun Sen said, in an apparent reference to the Cambodia National Rescue Party.   

Hun Sen also accused the Khmer People Power Movement – a US-based, self-described “civil political movement” – of training armed forces in Thailand. He went on to ask the US Central Intelligence Agency to investigate the KPPM’s leadership, and said he would “co-operate with Thailand to destroy these armed forces”.

The KPPM filed a dossier to the International Criminal Court in June, accusing Hun Sen of crimes against humanity for his treatment of land disputes – coverage of which factored heavily into the arrest and conviction of independent radio station owner Mam Sonando.

Yesterday, in an email, KPPM President Sourn Serey Ratha dismissed Hun Sen’s claims, adding that his group simply sought to “provide political awareness to the people”.

“Currently, there is only Mr. Hun Sen of the CPP who led and controlled arms force in [the] country, and no…political group like[s] to create arms force any more,” he said, maintaining that, contrary to Hun Sen’s accusations, he often spoke out against armed movements. “Because I learned and understand very well that Mr. Hun Sen…is trying to paint any Khmer nationalist group as [a] terrorist [if] they can.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann also strenuously denied the accusation that the opposition party harboured terrorists, adding that they had no need for weapons when they could beat the CPP handily with nothing more than National Election Committee reforms.

“This is intimidation and groundless accusations, because he is at a crossroads, because he sees the popularity of the CNRP skyrocket every day,” Sovann said.

In his remarks, Hun Sen went on to list more insurrectionist fronts: the Tiger Head Movement, the Maha Chak Khorm Movement, the Khmer Liberation Front and another movement among the remnants of a Vietnam-era paramilitary group.

All of the groups, Hun Sen said, were connected to one another, and had even gone so far as to design their own flags – clear proof, he added, that “they not only want to change Hun Sen and the CPP, but they [also] want to dissolve the monarchy”.

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