Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Interior claims no 'movement' in Cambodia, members disagree



Interior claims no 'movement' in Cambodia, members disagree

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak speaks at an event in 2016. Heng Chivoan
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak speaks at an event in 2016. Heng Chivoan

Interior claims no 'movement' in Cambodia, members disagree

The Ministry of Interior has claimed that no Cambodians have joined a former opposition leader’s new "movement", and warned that any who do will face legal consequences.

Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the Interior Ministry is “looking for them”, but not a single supporter of the newly formed Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) had been found in the whole country.

“There is no CNRP [Cambodia National Rescue Party] or CNRM structure in the country, and if there is one, the law will be applied suddenly. There is no one, and no one supports it,” Sopheak maintained.

He did not specify which law would be invoked in arresting alleged supporters, but government officials have - without evidence - blasted the movement as a “rebel” group and a “terrorist” network, despite its professed dedication to nonviolence.

The CNRM was launched last month by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy in response to the Supreme Court’s controversial pre-election dissolution of the CNRP, the country’s only viable opposition party. The relatively young CNRP had made huge gains against the ruling Cambodian People's Party since its formation in 2012, taking 44 percent of the popular vote in the 2013 national elections and a similar amount in last year's commune elections.

But despite some 3 million people being suddenly disenfranchised by the Supreme Court's decision, Sopheak today said that the average Cambodian did not care about the political crackdown.

“No one cares who goes where, who is jailed and what is dissolved … They think about the price of the land, cassava and corn, whether the price increases or not. The workers are happy with their salary of $170,” he said, referring to a recent salary bump for garment workers.

Sopheak added that opposition figures with dual nationalities like Rainsy and former Deputy President Mu Sochua could remain abroad indefinitely, but others will need to return eventually, and will be subsequently arrested.

Despite Sopheak’s claims, interviews with former CNRP members painted a different picture, with three separate high-ranking local leaders claiming to have joined the movement.

One anonymous source said he has been in contact with CNRP leaders abroad.

“I do not worry about their intimidation or threats because it’s normal thing for the ruling CPP … They knew they would 100 percent lose if they did not dissolve us,” he added.

He went on to claim that many people would heed a call to action from the movement.

Another agreed, explaining that people are not quiet because they agree with the government, but because they are afraid. A third compared Hun Sen’s regime to the murderous Khmer Rouge.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Sopheak’s threats themselves were proof that the government worried people would openly join the movement if not for fear of legal persecution.

“The situation in the country may be calm on the surface, but underneath it there is apparently a lot of turmoil,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • First Khmer woman to pass out of West Point

    The life of a soldier certainly isn’t for everyone. The training is gruelling, the hours long and there’s no room for excuses. On top of that, soldiers must be ready to respond to sudden threats at a moment’s notice. Just ask Sithyka

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • Deminers unearth ancient lion statue

    Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on Tuesday that a statue of a lion was found by mine clearance experts while they were digging for a development project. It was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last