Two deputy National Police chiefs on Wednesday instructed officers under their command to use all means to protect the peace and immediately destroy an “outlawed rebel movement”.
They were referring to Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who they said was organising a coup to overthrow the legitimate government through an uprising.
Rainsy renewed his pledge on Tuesday to return to the Kingdom on November 9, despite facing arrest on a slew of criminal charges, including incitement and insulting the King.
Meanwhile, the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand denied media reports that Cambodian migrant workers were allegedly flocking to the Kingdom to join a gathering to receive Rainsy.
On Wednesday, deputy national police chief Chhay Kim Khoeun, who is also a spokesman for the National Police, visited Banteay Meanchey province, which shares a border with Thailand, to keep police forces on standby.
“Banteay Meanchey police have to join hands in protecting peace at all costs. You have to explain to the people to make them understand the value of peace. If we lose it, our country will risk sliding into another civil war,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, deputy National Police chief Kheng Someth, who is the commander of Regions 4 and 5, repeated the call, instructing Phnom Penh municipal police to take immediate action against the “rebel movement” in the event of an uprising.
He said members of the security forces have an obligation to protect the monarchy and the legitimate government formed through last year’s national elections.
Someth said Rainsy and his supporters had recently shown signs of fomenting an uprising, in an apparent reference to the video clip released by Rainsy on Tuesday night.
In the video posted on Facebook, Rainsy said he is determined to return on November 9 to restore democracy in the Kingdom despite having to sacrifice his freedom or life.
Someth said the security forces would not tolerate any uprising and were determined to prevent it at all costs.
“The formation of the so-called National Rescue Movement to cause insecurity, any insurrection along the border, the recruitment of activists in provinces, inciting the military as well as civil servants and workers to oppose the government, the use of psychological warfare to cause turbulence . . . all these acts must be thwarted by members of the security forces who are tasked with protecting the people and peace,” he said.
In Banteay Meanchey, the provincial administration said members of the security forces will carry out an exercise on Friday in preparation for a possible uprising.
It said in an announcement that the security forces parade will proceed from the provincial military base to the police headquarters in Sisophon town’s Preah Ponlea commune.
“Please be informed [of the exercise] and don’t panic when seeing the parade,” the statement said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the authorities’ response was predictable.
“The government is taking no chances and is making sure that all its security measures to battle Sam Rainsy’s return are effective,” he said.
On local media reports of migrant workers’ returning home to show support for Rainsy’s return, he said: “It is very difficult to make head or tail of the real situation when there is so much fake news going about.”
Political analyst Em Sovannara claimed the government was overreacting. He said it should instead defuse the political situation which may, in turn, improve Cambodia’s chance of maintaining its access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement and the US’ General System of Preferences (GSP).
“The security forces parade would only paint a grim image on security and safety in Cambodia. This makes people concerned as November 9 approaches.
“For now, the government should defuse the political situation to ensure the EU and the US maintain Cambodia’s EBA and GSP status. If the situation remains tense as it is now, chances are Cambodia will lose them,” he claimed.