Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday told Sar Kheng and other government officials not to respond to an unnamed group who he said had urged the Minister of Interior to stage a coup against the leader of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
He said during the inauguration of Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian Friendship Bridge near Poipet on Monday that Sar Kheng, who is also a deputy prime minister, had no need to respond to the “stupid person” who had called on him to lead a party coup.
The prime minister’s remarks were seemingly aimed at members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and its “acting president” Sam Rainsy, who on Saturday urged party supporters in South Korea to return to Cambodia with him to arrest Hun Sen.
“Now we can think together: ‘Deputy prime minister would topple the prime minister’ – what does it mean? It means a coup d’etat. I wonder how [this person] can say this. And this coup is meant to transfer power to him – do you think [Sar Kheng] is ignorant?
“[Sar Kheng] doesn’t need to respond because we agreed during a meeting at the Council of Ministers that we won’t respond to them. If we don’t respond, they will disappear by themselves.
“It has never happened that someone tells a deputy party president to topple the party president. But the worst is that they call on a deputy prime minister to lead a coup to topple the prime minister,” he said.
“They said they rush to come back. I am waiting for you. Pol Pot came in army units but they could not topple me.
“Now you want to arrest me for fun. Maybe that sounds easy for you. This is Hun Sen. Are these people coming to arrest me or to welcome me?” he said.
The prime minister used an analogy to urge government officials to refrain from reacting to the group: “Don’t respond to them – if a dog bites our feet, don’t bite the dog’s feet.”
He said the opposition group had never won out over him because they had constantly assessed his strategies wrongly.
He also warned supporters of the opposition group in the country that they would be arrested if they rose up against the government in contravention of the law.
When thanking people for voting for the CPP, he said that if a coup were to happen, nobody could expect peace.
However, Rainsy told The Post via email on Monday that he was confident CPP officials would mount a coup.
“I firmly believe that Sar Kheng, [deputy prime minister] Men Sam An and other CPP top officials will topple Hun Sen to save the CPP and avoid a mortal danger for Cambodia because of Hun Sen blindly serving China’s interests,” he wrote.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Hun Sen should be confident enough in the unity of the party behind him not to waste his time responding to such a call.
“If I were him, I would dismiss it and laugh it off,” he said.
Sok Touch, the president of Royal Academy of Cambodia, said a party coup would not happen because the CPP’s internal unity was strong.
“The CPP won’t [have a coup] because they have an intertwining connection with each other, and the party has a long history of unity,” he said.
Touch said there were three talking points in Cambodian current affairs at the moment – Saturday’s CNRP demonstration in South Korea, the exchange of words between the US and Chinese embassies and the call for a coup, something he said was “just a test to see if something would happen”.
He said there would be no break-up within the CPP because this would mean a betrayal of the people who voted for the party.
On Saturday, thousands of supporters of the CNRP gathered in the South Korean city of Gwangju to hold a candlelight demonstration calling for the “liberation” of democracy in Cambodia.
Yim Sinorn, a CNRP member in South Korea, said on Sunday that an estimated 7,000 Cambodian migrant workers and party members from other countries joined in the protest.
“Our goal is clear. We set the goal to walk forwards to liberate democracy in Cambodia. Democracy in Cambodia is stuck and swallowed by the incumbent government. We have to force [the government] to release it.”
“We want the release of Kem Sokha [from his treason charge]. Because of his arrest and the dissolution of the CNRP, democracy has gone backwards. If he was not arrested and the CNRP not dissolved, we wouldn’t have to demand anything,” Sinorn said.