The Ministry of Interior has instructed all municipal and provincial governors to tighten security and constantly monitor the activities of “coup” plotters in areas under their jurisdiction.
The order came as Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), released a new video clip on Facebook reiterating his promised return on November 9.
In the video released on Tuesday night, Rainsy also called on the international community to exert pressure on the government and prevent it from using force against those who would allegedly gather to receive him.
In its directive issued on Wednesday, the ministry said Rainsy coup plotters planned to use their mass gathering for his promised return on November 9 as an excuse to cause chaos as the Kingdom marks Independence Day and then the Water Festival.
The ultimate goal of the “outlawed rebel movement”, the ministry said, was to overthrow the elected government.
“All municipal and provincial governors shall be on standby in their respective cities and provinces from the beginning of November until after Independence Day and the Water Festival.
“Assign local authorities to maintain security and be prepared for any incidents that might occur. You must constantly monitor the outlawed rebel movement that attempts to topple the legitimate government and advise people against joining the plot,” said the directive.
The ministry also instructed local authorities to closely monitor the movement of residents in areas under their jurisdiction in anticipation of Rainsy’s return.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the ministry’s preventative measures were unwarranted.
“It is an obsessive response to what may turn out to be a myth. It will only pollute the social atmosphere and affect the emotions of the people during the festival,” he said.
Ny Sokha, a senior official at rights group Adhoc, claimed the ministry’s directive was politically motivated and directed at “supporters” of Rainsy’s return. “It affects people’s freedom to travel and makes them feel uneasy,” he said.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak rejected claims of a political motive behind the directive. He said some civil society organisations just criticised the government to gain advantages from the “outlawed rebel movement”.
“The government has marked November 9 as the day to express national solidarity, with people throughout the country eating ambok (flattened rice) as a symbolic commitment to protect the nation, King and religion.
“For innocent people, there’s nothing to worry about. Those who are concerned are the ones who want Sam Rainsy to return to cause chaos so that they can get advantages in the event of an uprising,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, echoed Sopheak’s remarks. He said the ministry’s directive was a preventative measure and not suppression on human rights.
“Municipal and provincial authorities have an obligation to maintain security and public order, especially during the main national holidays. It does not affect people’s freedom to travel. It’s not intimidation,” he stressed.