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Armed units deployed

A number of armoured personnel carriers patrol National Road 7 in Kampong Cham province's Cheung Prey district.
A number of armoured personnel carriers patrol National Road 7 in Kampong Cham province's Cheung Prey district. VIREAK MAI

Armed units deployed

Approximately 100 members from each unit of the armed forces, military police and National Police have been deployed to Phnom Penh to “ensure political stability and security” until the new government is formed, a military police official said.

“[They] have been mobilised nationwide in order to ensure political stability and security until the official formation of the new government,” Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, said.

“Not to worry, this is an advance measure of the armed forces to prevent any bad situation that may happen during the caretaker government period. We have to ensure security and social stability until there is a new government.”

Troops were reported seen moving along national roads towards areas around the capital.

The total number of members of the armed forces deployed was not clear last night.

A military official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Post that soldiers had been moved from the provinces into Phnom Penh “because they believe armed forces in Phnom Penh have less desire to crack down on a mass demonstration”.

“Military from the provinces are more loyal to their commanders and could cope with the mass protesters.”

The official also said that a number of Phnom Penh-based soldiers had had their guns seized by superiors out of fear they might join protesters.

Another anonymous military official said at least 200 armed forces had recently been deployed to key locations near the Neak Leung crossing between Prey Veng and Kandal provinces. On Tuesday, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy vowed widespread demonstrations if final election results don’t reflect an opposition win. The party later stressed that they viewed protests as a worst-case scenario and had called only for peaceful protests. The government, in turn has said it might view such moves as “rebellion”.

CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha, meanwhile, gave a speech just after Rainsy in which he said upwards of 70 per cent of the armed forces and civil servants were believed to have voted for the opposition – which has promised large raises for their ranks.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said troop movements were strictly to ensure security and took pains to highlight Sokha’s statements as patently false.

“I would like to reject and express strong regret over the comment ... which exaggerates the information and attacks and insults [Royal Cambodian Armed Forces],” he said.

“It was intended to break the will of [military] personnel and the [armed forces units] of the RCAF, to turn them away from the duty of protecting the nation, protecting the democracy and the rights of the people.”

Multiple calls to Defence Minister Tea Banh, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith, and a number of other high-ranking military officials went unanswered yesterday.

Though government officials sought to paint the movements as “ordinary”, analysts said they were anything but.

“I would say the movement of police and military is twofold: first, to deter any public demonstrations; second, to suppress any public demonstrations should they occur,” Carlyle Thayer, a professor emeritus at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said.

“Some Cambodian youth may feel emboldened to confront Hun Sen, but if the Egyptian army kills pro-Morsy protesters, I think Cambodians will have a rethink. But domestic developments in Cambodia, in my opinion, have not yet reached an incendiary stage,” he added.

Quickly, however, it threatens to hit that point, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said.

“I think the chatter on social media and Facebook is pretty concerning; I’m very concerned about some of the language being used,” he said.

“I don’t think the government is concerned about mass uprising or mass protest, I think they’re concerned about incidents which could lead to chaos.... In this tense situation, it could easily get out of control, which is why I think the leadership of both parties should be responsible about what they say in public.

“The ball’s in the CNRP’s hand, and they need to put the interests of the nation first and look for peaceful means to push for investigation,” he continued, adding that the party likely could have done more to negotiate the terms of a joint investigation.

On Sunday, just one day after a specially convened electoral investigation launched, the CNRP boycotted, saying it would not take part in any inquiry that didn’t involve the United Nations. The National Election Committee has deemed such involvement “illegal” but said it will permit outsiders to observe the process.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the troop movements were doubtless intended to intimidate.

“Violence and intimidation will never be able to kill justice, will never be able to kill the will of the people,” he said, before shooting down intimations the party hadn’t made enough efforts to negotiate.

“How many letters have we sent to the NEC and how many to the requisite mechanisms asking them to solve the problem?”

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