Hun Sen says military neutrality ‘doesn’t extend to Rainsy’

Prime Minister Hun Sen salutes an honour guard as he arrives at at an event yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Prime Minister Hun Sen salutes an honour guard as he arrives at at an event yesterday in Phnom Penh. Facebook

Hun Sen says military neutrality ‘doesn’t extend to Rainsy’

Prime Minister Hun Sen reminded former opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday that the military’s neutrality does not apply to alleged traitors attempting to topple the government.

Rainsy, a dual citizen who fled to France in 2015 to avoid charges widely seen as politically motivated, was summonsed again to court on Monday for allegedly attempting to incite the military to turn on the government.

“You do not dream to incite the army to rebel against the government. You need to be careful, because the army might not let you stay still . . . You dare to talk because you are tens of thousands of kilometres away,” the premier said during a speech yesterday announcing a new intelligence facility.

During the speech, Hun Sen repeated accusations that Rainsy and other members of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party were attempting to topple the government via “colour revolution”.

Rainsy was accused of treason and sued for incitement after he took to Facebook last week to encourage soldiers to disobey orders if they were asked to fire on protesters. In the post, Rainsy referenced the relatively bloodless toppling of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and other dictators removed by mass protests while the military stood by.

“I should remind that the armed forces are the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and it is the state’s tool,” Hun Sen said yesterday, seemingly in response. “In the past, the colour revolution in all places usually tried to make the armed forces neutral.”

He added that the country needed to focus on one thing: “the prevention of colour revolution”.

“We broke the neck, beheaded and destroyed the body of the terrorist organisation . . . but the supporters are still there. Their attempt toward us remains the same,” he continued.

The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP – Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party’s only legitimate competition – at the government’s behest on widely derided accusations that it was fomenting a foreign-backed “revolution”. The move has drawn widespread condemnation, the revocation of foreign funding for the country’s election body and even visa restrictions to the US.

Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University in Thailand, said the newest suit against Rainsy is part of a plan to “delegitimise Sam Rainsy by heaping more and more legal actions and convictions on him”.
“The army leadership has been coopted by Hun Sen,” he added.

Cambodian political analyst Meas Nee said that regardless of the rhetoric about “colour revolution”, the CPP’s true concern was simply its level of popular support.

“I still believe that I have not seen signs of colour revolution happening, even though the government declares it very often. For me, I just saw concern from the government after losing public support so quickly,” Nee said.

While he noted that Hun Sen’s comments were typical for the prime minister, he hoped they wouldn’t be “the political model for the next generation”.

Speaking by email last night, Rainsy alleged that Hun Sen was using violent threats against him.

“Since the deadly grenade attack that nearly killed me in 1997 Hun Sen has developed a kind of paranoid schizophrenia when it comes to his relation with me. Wanting now to use the army to take revenge against me represents another death threat from him,” he said, referencing an attack on an opposition rally in which at least 16 were killed.

“He recently threatened to send his henchmen to abduct me from abroad. He would do anything to eliminate me and I have informed the French authorities of his criminal intention,” he added, claiming “measures are being taken to ensure my protection”.

The French Embassy declined to comment.

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