Minister of Interior Sar Kheng called on the people not to be sucked in by the “propaganda of certain politicians” that aimed to persuade them to demonstrate against the government in protest at supposedly unfair elections.
His plea came on Wednesday after several people wrote on Facebook that they would welcome the return of Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and other party officials.
Sar Kheng, who is also deputy prime minister, was speaking during the inauguration of a bridge in Battambang province. He said the commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the National Police chief were prepared to execute court warrants to arrest Rainsy and the CNRP officials.
“Now we have peace. We should think about how to make our livelihoods prosperous. Do not believe in the propaganda of certain politicians who seek to mobilise people to support them by means of demonstrating against the government,” he said, adding that Cambodia had learned about propaganda in the war.
“People should strive to help maintain the development and progress achieved by the government, which the people have shown they are behind by voting in elections. More than 80 per cent of people turned up to cast their votes in the elections, which were free of violence, injuries or death.
“The elections were recognised by the international community, despite certain countries not doing so. Our country now has full peace. No outlawed armies or rebels are waging a war with the government, which would require the mobilisation of the armed forces or recruitment of soldiers from among the people.
“This is our good fortune, and the success of us all and our nation is our pride,” Sar Kheng said.
He said protesting to topple the government is like dismantling Cambodia and having to re-establish it all over again, and no one knows how long it would take to regain the country’s current stability.
“For example, if we are too busy thinking about welcoming that dissolved party leader and protesting to overthrow the government, we don’t have time to think about improving our livelihoods,” Sar Kheng said, without mentioning Rainsy’s or the outlawed CNRP by name.
“What the government is doing is helping people to have necklaces, bracelets, motorbikes, clothes and smile happily. The government never thinks about making those things communal property like the Khmer Rouge regime did,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanroth said on Wednesday that he had supported Sar Kheng’s remarks.
He said the CNRP’s call for demonstrations against the government could lead to political unrest and instability, which would affect Cambodia’s economy.
“Such competition fails to benefit the nation and [the CNRP] should turn to negotiations. Sam Rainsy’s remarks will plunge the country into a bad situation and affect the economy, investment and the country’s image,” Chanroth said.
However, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said people had a right to hold peaceful protests, including those against the government.
“People can exercise their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution, so long as their actions do not adversely affect the rights and freedoms of others – as it says in Article 31.
“Article 41 says Cambodian citizens have the freedom to express their personal opinions and assemble as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, or affect the good traditions of society, public law and order or national security.
“The government can appeal to people not to hold protests, but it is unconstitutional to ban them and suspend that right unless the country or a specific locality, where protests are banned, is declared to be under a state of emergency,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the minister’s message was a reminder and warning to those who intended to foment a popular colour revolution to topple the government.
“The remarks by Samdech Sar Kheng are aimed at Rainsy and the former leaders of the CNRP. Recently, Rainsy has made repeated comments trying to break the people and the Cambodian People’s Party apart. He has incited the people to do something that will destroy the nation.
“Samdech’s message is a basis for people to consider,” he said.