Prime Minister Hun Sen has appealed to all compatriots to stand up and protect the King against fresh “insults” from former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
The call followed a video clip released on October 24, in which Rainsy – former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – can be heard calling King Norodom Sihamoni a “traitor”.
Hun Sen made the appeal while addressing more than 5,000 flood-inflicted households in Pursat province after distributing 500 tonnes of rice seed.
“Two days ago, he did not just insult me, he insulted His Majesty. So, I call on all of our people, monks and laymen, to rise up against the real traitor and any political party that attaches itself to this traitor, in order to ensure the protection of the monarchy, the throne, the King and unity and peace in our territory.
“We will not allow this traitor to continue to interrupt us. If he just insults the prime minister, that would be tolerable, but he has often insulted the monarchy, and now he insults the King again. He also went so far as to claim that the King does not even have a bit of conscience,” Hun Sen said.
Without naming any party, Hun Sen reiterated his call on all people to distance themselves from the “treasonous” political party which “betrays religion and the King”. He said they must distance themselves from the treasonous group or face “consequences”.
“This is not just a warning, but it is the truth about what will happen. There is no country that allows treasonous political parties to persist,” he said.
Hun Sen said the King is the head of state who is not involved in politics, and that insulting him is a lese-majeste that must not be ignored or tolerated.
“Our compatriots who are in a political party that has link themselves to the three generations of traitors, please distance yourselves immediately and join another party. Don’t stay in this party, or you will face the risk of law enforcement once the authorities find out that this party has a link to this traitor.
“I hope that those who do not support this traitor will leave the party that attached itself to him immediately if possible,” he stressed.
Various units of the military, ministries and institutions issued statements condemning Rainsy’s “insults” and vowing to take action against the self-exiled opposition leader and those who support him.
Rainsy was just handed down a life sentence last week by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for “treason” in relation to his agreement with Montagnard Foundation Inc president Kok Ksor, signed in the US in 2013. He also faces a slew of other court cases.
The agreement, “Degar Indigenous Rights in Cambodia”, was revealed in a video that resurfaced in 2013, in which Rainsy vowed to uphold the rights of ethnic minorities in four northeastern Cambodian provinces through his planned incorporation of three articles from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into the Cambodian Constitution.
The Ministry of Justice said at the time that the move amounted to “treason”.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the King is protected by the Constitution and is untouchable, adding that the premier is correct to call on the public to protect the monarchy.
“His call shows the government following its duty to protect the monarchy as stated in the Constitution,” he said.
Siphan said that it’s not only the government that has a role protecting the King and the monarchy, but the general public and monks have a duty to do so as well.
Meach Sovannara, a former senior CNRP official, said the government’s measures against Rainsy and to protect the King were suitable, but suggested that Hun Sen should not try to make cases that are “politically vindictive”.
Chhort Bunthong, head of the Culture, Education and Tourist Relations department at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), said the King should not be implicated in political affairs by politicians.
Kin Phea, director of the RAC’s International Relations Institute said Rainsy’s serious insults against the King were equal to “treason” and were a betrayal of his religion and the King that no Cambodian can accept.
“Such a serious insult by Rainsy against the King cannot be pardoned and he must face legal action,” Phea said.