At the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the headquarters of the Royal Cambodian Army on Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that for as long as he is prime minister, he will not allow a coup to take place.
He ordered the armed forces to destroy any colour revolution and all rebel groups, and to crush all attempts to seize power unconstitutionally.
Hun Sen was speaking at an event, which exhibited modern military hardware, at the army’s headquarters in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district.
“The armed forces have an obligation to defend the state, so there is no neutrality as far as rebels are concerned."
“We must destroy immediately those who attempt to seize power undemocratically and unconstitutionally, and without waiting for orders,” he said before senior officials, embassy representatives and thousands of soldiers.
He said that the establishment of armed forces was aimed at defending the state, so nobody could be allowed to destroy it. The army should stay neutral between political parties and it must remain so with the government.
However, it should not be neutral with rebel groups.
Referring to France, he said the government there had deployed troops to defend itself against the “yellow vest” protest movement.
“Why is it that France can do that and Cambodia cannot? Some countries send in the armed forces to seize power, so why can’t Cambodia use its army to defend its government? There is no justice in this world,” the prime minister said.
He appealed to the army to maintain its dignity and transparency, and not make the people suffer.
Meanwhile, Hun Sen used the occasion to reveal a June 2, 1993 coup attempt with the arrest of him and [now senior minister] Pol Saroeun.
He claimed that in order to avoid bloodshed, he told the people arresting him that he was willing to step down as prime minister and be replaced by a particular unnamed person who did not accept the result of the UN-sponsored 1993 elections.
However, he said the attempt to topple him as prime minister failed because the then generals Tea Banh and Ke Kim Yan rejected his resignation as it might lead to war and bloodshed.
He continued that there was another attempt to overthrow him in 1994. Consequently, he said he has worked on plans to counter such attempts and improve the army’s structure to be independent of the executive. He reiterated that as long as he is prime minister no attempted coup would be successful.
“Despite the coup attempt, there was no fighting as it was intercepted in time. They wanted to destroy [co-prime minister Prince] Norodom Ranariddh and planned to arrest and keep me in Prey Veng province. It happened in July 1994."
“This is why I need to say this again and again – while Hun Sen is holding power, a coup will not happen,” he said.
Lieutenant General Hun Manet, the commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, who is also Deputy Commander-in-Chief, on Thursday said he was determined to successfully implement reforms and strategies by committing to destroy all “collusion and trickery” aimed to destroy peace and foment a colour revolution.
Manet swore his allegiance to be a loyal servant to the Kingdom, and its religion and King, and to defend the Constitution, the King and the legal government of the day, and to protect peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“[We are] determined to destroy collusion and any attempt aimed at damaging peace, and any trickery aimed at fomenting a colour revolution in Cambodia, and we shall fight against interference in our internal affairs from outside."
“[We are also] determined to fulfil our obligations and aim to turn any weak points or challenges into strong points in order to serve as a firm national defence with the trust and confidence of the country and its people,” Manet said.