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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sok Touch spins ‘revolt’ theory

Royal Academy of Cambodia researcher Sok Touch speaks to the press on colour revolution yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Royal Academy of Cambodia researcher Sok Touch speaks to the press on colour revolution yesterday in Phnom Penh. Sreng Meng Srun

Sok Touch spins ‘revolt’ theory

University researcher Sok Touch yesterday took the government’s oft-used “colour revolution” narrative one step further by characterising practically every major political development since the 2013 post-election protests as part of one concerted attempt to foment insurrection in the Kingdom.

The buzzword has increasingly been used by government and military officials to justify violent rhetoric and a heightened security stance, and refers to citizen-led movements involving strikes and peaceful demonstrations that have toppled regimes in the former Soviet Bloc and Middle East – and more recently in Yugoslavia’s “Bulldozer Revolution” and Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution”.

Touch – who was in July made director of the state-run Royal Academy of Cambodia with a government rank equivalent to secretary of state – justified the recent arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha on “treason” charges as the logical response to a larger revolution, which he claimed started with wage strikes and the opposition’s Freedom Park demonstration following the disputed 2013 election.

“So, with all these lessons, the government must stop them; it is dangerous. In Cambodia, power was not created because of revolution and forces. It was created by peoples’ votes,” Touch said, at a roundtable event with students at the academy.

He went on to link seemingly unrelated events – such as the jailing of university student Kong Raiya, who on Facebook had called for a colour revolution to little effect, and the work of activist monks like But Buntenh – to a recently recirculated 2013 speech in which Sokha says he received American support to plan his political career.

The resurrection of the video followed unsubstantiated theories, promoted by government mouthpiece Fresh News, detailing a wide-ranging and seemingly fantastical conspiracy between the opposition, the CIA, Taiwan’s ruling party, freelance journalists and international NGOs to topple the ruling party – a theme Touch appeared to echo yesterday.

“It is not different from colour revolutions in Ukraine and Yugoslavia. It is the same. It was organised by the CIA,” he said.

He also lumped calls for justice following the assassination of political analyst Kem Ley into the chain of events.

“Why do they [demand justice] for Kem Ley? We see these are clear events that push for a colour revolution,” he said.

Though the revered analyst’s killer was arrested, his professed motives were widely debunked and a purported investigation into others involved in the killing has borne no fruit.

Touch was backed up by fellow university researcher Sum Chhum Bun, who said the civil society-backed “Black Monday” protests, which sought the release of the so-called Adhoc 5, were also part of the revolution.

While representatives from political parties were invited to the discussion, only Grassroots Democracy Party Vice President Sam Sundoeun attended, countering that Sokha’s video did not endorse a colour revolution. “Where did he say he will do a colour revolution? People who watched his video also found nothing,” he said.

He added that Touch should focus on social justice, the rule of law and other issues championed by Kem Ley – who helped form the GDP – rather than on shoehorning his murder into a colour revolution narrative.

CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said in an interview yesterday that it was “ridiculous” and “extremist” to retrofit all the past four years’ events into a colour revolution. “He is knowledgeable. Why is he not showing the proper reasons [for these events]?” he said.

Meanwhile, political commentator Meas Ny said there was a fundamental lack of understanding within the government and its surrogates as to how peaceful protest movements start. “We cannot say all demonstrations are part of a colour revolution,” he said. “People standing up for justice is not a revolution.”

Ben Sokhean

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