Sam Rainsy “the acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told supporters in Australia at the weekend that the Kingdom had lost its independence to China, while outlining plans for his announced return.
But government spokesman Phay Siphan slammed his words as the statement of a “crazy politician”.
“Hun Sen has destroyed the independence that King Father Norodom Sihanouk seized back from French colonialism in 1953.
“Hun Sen first called in the Vietnamese, and now he has called in the Chinese to be the masters of Cambodians, making the Kingdom a Chinese colony. We absolutely disagree with this,” Rainsy told supporters in Brisbane on Saturday.
In Melbourne on Sunday, Rainsy claimed that the prime minister could not rely on Cambodians for his power, so he had first turned to the Vietnamese and now the Chinese.
Rainsy also claimed that Hun Sen had brought in foreigners to control the Kingdom and that he and the people must take back Cambodian independence.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said he was not interested in what Rainsy had to say.
“He has become a crazy politician – a person who speaks a lot but what he says is nonsense,” Siphan said.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Rainsy’s comments that Cambodia had lost its independence showed he was intent on organising a colour revolution.
He said five points disproved Rainsy’s assertion that Cambodian independence had been lost.
“First, did Chinese nationals participate in last year’s national elections? Second, is Cambodia’s foreign policy decided by China instead of Cambodia?
“Third, the deportation of Chinese nationals who violated the Kingdom’s laws showed the enforcement of Cambodian law, not Chinese.
“Fourth, is the Cambodian Constitution still the nation’s highest law or have Beijing’s laws taken over? Fifth, has Cambodia declared itself a communist country? Cambodia is a multi-party liberal democracy.
“Sam Rainsy [should realise] that while his words were just political comments, these five points reflect the path of Cambodia,” Touch said.
Paul Chambers, a professor at Naresuan University in Thailand, said Rainsy’s rhetoric, though meant to produce political gain, “increasingly rang true because of China’s rapidly expanding economic, political and military influence in Hun Sen’s Cambodia”.
“A state’s independence is a function of its ability to maintain national sovereignty in the face of foreign encroachment.
“Cambodia’s sovereignty is currently being challenged by excessive Chinese investment, a debt trap, dependency on Beijing and China’s enhanced use of Cambodia for military purposes,” Chambers said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Cambodia had not fully recovered its independence since the Vietnamese army helped overthrow the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
“Our government did not send back illegal Vietnamese settlers who came with the troops and who should have been repatriated when they were withdrawn,” Mong Hay said.
The fact that Cambodia has sought help from China to counterbalance Vietnam should testify to Vietnam’s dominance over the Kingdom, he claimed.
“Regarding China, Cambodia is even more accommodating and willing to comply with China’s wishes, including accommodating an influx of Chinese settlers and allowing them to build a town of their own in Sihanoukville in just a matter of a few short years.
“China’s dominance over Cambodia is stronger than that of Vietnam,” Mong Hay claimed.
Rainsy also told supporters in Australia of his strategy on his announced return to Cambodia in November.
“The situation is ripe as the Hun Sen regime is weak, so the people will topple his dictatorial rule.
“Hun Sen took power from the people, and now the people will rise up, but they don’t want to do any harm to him. They just want him to go anywhere he wants and let the Cambodian people live happily.
“Please citizens, take to the streets, to the villages . . . en masse throughout the country. If Hun Sen orders troops to shoot innocent people, soldiers please don’t. I would like to appeal to all soldiers to turn your guns on Hun Sen,” Rainsy said.
Siphan said the armed forces would not go against Prime Minister Hun Sen and the legitimate government as this would constitute a coup.
Touch questioned Rainsy’s claims of adopting non-violence principles while claiming he would return to Cambodia to arrest Hun Sen.
“Hun Sen is the legitimate prime minister. In what capacity do you come to arrest him? The illegitimate comes to arrest the legitimate leader – where is the non-violent principle? This is a nonsense statement,” Touch stressed.