Anyone posting messages supporting the return of Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on social media will be arrested, the Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday.
Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told The Post on Monday that authorities would not only arrest those actively involved in Rainsy’s plot to return, but also those showing support for it.
On Tuesday, National Police chief Neth Savoeun held a meeting with all departments under his command to outline measures to counteract moves by a “rebel movement” to topple the government.
“Anyone supporting those who wish to topple the government . . . we will consider that you also oppose Cambodia’s peace and want to bring about unrest and see that peace comes to an end. We will also arrest you.
“We will take measures against those posting messages in support of Sam Rainsy’s return. We will find and arrest them. Our country is enjoying peace, so why would you want to topple the government?
“When [the CNRP leaders] come, we will arrest them all, including Sam Rainsy, because their actions are illegal,” Sopheak said.
He said any group seeking to harm Cambodia’s peace and development would be stopped by the authorities.
“There will not be chaos as we have already arrested the ringleaders. Sam Rainsy did nothing while Kem Sokha was imprisoned. We have only arrested the ringleaders who provoke, and this is not millions of people. We look only for the ringleaders,” Sopheak said.
The National Police at a meeting on security and public order on Tuesday outlined plans to prevent moves by “rebels” to cause insecurity and topple the legitimate government.
National Police chief Savoeun told around 1,000 officials who attended that “we all are together in our commitment to protecting the government and not allowing any group or traitor to destroy Cambodia’s happiness and peace”.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said after its conclusion that the main purpose of the meeting was to outline its course of action.
“The National Police has emphasised two tasks. The first is to maintain security during the Pchum Ben festival.
“The second is to strengthen security to protect national interests and not allow any enemy or rebel group to destroy the safety, security and peace that we currently enjoy,” said Kim Khoeun, who is also the deputy chief of the National Police.
A senior police official who attended the meeting and asked to remain anonymous told The Post: “The National Police ordered that we must do whatever it takes to arrest the ringleaders, regardless of how many people support them. All police officers must follow the orders of their superiors fully and must crackdown on any rebel group wishing to destroy peace.”
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said the measures outlined by the authorities concerned him.
“They are harsh and affect human rights, freedom of expression and the right to participate in politics because people would only be expressing their views,” Sen Karuna said.
He said that arresting Rainsy and the senior CNRP leadership should they return could result in confrontations between their supporters and the authorities and lead to unrest.
However, Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said he supported the measures.
“The authorities have an obligation to crack down on those posting messages in support of activities involved in attempting to topple the legitimate government – one born out of the will of the people,” Phea said.
The National Police had enough capacity to arrest Sam Rainsy should he return to Cambodia, he added.