Former Funcinpec Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng could be facing a new court case after calling for peaceful protests against the government in a video posted to Facebook yesterday, issuing comments similar to ones that recently saw former opposition leader Sam Rainsy slapped with a lawsuit earlier this month.
“If you are not satisfied, stand up all together and protest against the government, which causes such a problem,” Lay Sreng said in the video, referring to the government’s recent dissolution of the opposition, which has drawn near-universal international condemnation.
Like Rainsy, he urged police and soldiers not to harm protesters, comparing Hun Sen to the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot and suggesting members of the security services are being exploited by the leaders they serve.
“If you implement this [order to hurt protesters], it means you kill your fellow Khmer people . . . When the country is at peace, [political elites] and their children spend money equal to your earnings in two or three years just for one meal . . . [Protesters] are just begging to survive,” Lay Sreng said.
Last month, the Supreme Court summarily dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party – the country’s only viable opposition party – and its president, Kem Sokha, is jailed on widely decried “treason” charges.
Despite widespread condemnation, there have been no protests in Cambodia, and most of the opposition’s leadership has fled abroad.
Lay Sreng went on to demand King Norodom Sihamoni take action about the deteriorating political situation. Lay Sreng himself fled Cambodia after calling the King a “castrated chicken” and accusing current Funcinpec officials of engaging in bribery in a secretly recorded phone conversation that saw him subsequently charged with “insulting the King” and defamation.
Rainsy, meanwhile, was sued by the military earlier this month for incitement after asking soldiers not to harm civilians, and Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat yesterday suggested Lay Sreng could face similar action, calling his comments a “poisonous trick” that “hid incitement inside”.
“Our stance from the army is absolutely to prevent all actions that are against the government . . . Filing a complaint is the next step. We regard this as incitement,” Socheat said.
Rainsy confirmed yesterday that a similar post he made on Monday urging the Cambodian people “to push for a democratic change and get rid of an anachronistic dictator” was indeed a call for “peaceful protests”.
While peaceful protests are legal in Cambodia, they are routinely blocked by authorities, and Hun Sen has already claimed he is willing to eliminate “100 to 200 people” to ensure stability.
CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua said she and other members of the now-dissolved party “continue to urge and support people to stand up and take non-violent action”, adding the CNRP supports his “calls for protests”.
“Like Gandhi says and repeated by Kem Sokha: no risks no change,” she added. Asked if concrete plans for action were in the works, she declined to comment.
In response to the same question, Rainsy said “there will be something more to come”.