Hun Manet on Sunday called on the army to stay united against politicians who incite civil war and prevent them from mobilising people to cause social chaos.
Manet, the commander of the army’s infantry and deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said the army is obliged to protect the legitimate government, peace and prosperity.
“Make sure the people have fun on national holidays, this is our obligation. The government has to take legal action against anyone who mobilises people to cause instability, social chaos and to topple the government just to fulfil their political ambitions.
“Maintaining peace and patriotism is our main goal,” he said.
Speaking during the closing ceremony for military training in Kampong Chhnang province on Sunday, Manet commended the armed forces for keeping the hard-won peace that was gained through Prime Minister Hun Sen’s win-win policy.
He said that while he was aware of their difficulties, he urged them to prioritise national interests and not to be lured into opposing the government with promises of financial incentives.
“Problems related to your livelihood and workplace are inevitable, so please try not to lose self-control. Keep in mind that the government always cares about the well-being of members of the armed forces and citizens alike.
“The people want peace and prosperity, which are priceless. Even if you are given $1 million, what would it be for if the nation slides into another civil war?
“What is the point of having that much money when our children lose their lives in war? Don’t forget that money was useless during the Pol Pot regime. What is more important than our children’s lives and happiness?
“The armed forces are obliged to prevent our nation from another civil war. Cambodians fought with each other for over 500 years so we must avoid such conflict and further loss of territorial integrity.
“We must oppose politicians who try to turn the people against each other and destroy peace,” he stressed.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, echoed Manet’s remarks.
“The armed forces help the government protect national sovereignty, territorial integrity and peace. So they are obliged to take action against politicians who cause turbulence and political instability or pose a threat to peace,” he said.
Ou Chanrath, a former lawmaker of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, called on the government to refrain from using the armed forces against the CNRP, led by “acting president” Sam Rainsy.
He said such action is not warranted unless the country falls into a state of emergency.
“It’s right for the armed forces to prevent politicians from killing Cambodians or inciting them to fight each other. But [the government] should not use the armed forces if it has not declared a state of emergency,” he said.
Meanwhile, Takeo provincial police chief Sok Samnang instructed officers to prevent Rainsy coup plotters from causing chaos should he return on November 9.
“Gathering to support [the plot and] the return of convict Sam Rainsy is against the law,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Manet’s call for the armed forces to unite against Rainsy’s movement was predictable.
“The statement from the army’s commander will carry full weight if the acts he is opposed to are crimes under the law. Otherwise, it is simply a political statement issued by one of the leaders of the ruling party,” he said.