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Army ‘reforms’ floated

Interior Minister Sar Kheng arrives in Battambang for a meeting on Tuesday, where he declared that Kem Sokha could still be held responsible for the actions of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement. Fresh News
Interior Minister Sar Kheng arrives in Battambang for a meeting on Tuesday, where he declared that Kem Sokha could still be held responsible for the actions of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement. Fresh News

Army ‘reforms’ floated

High-ranking defence officials on Tuesday said that the army needed to make “reforms” focused on maintaining discipline and ruling party loyalty among soldiers – even going so far as to restrict what soldiers post online.

Military Police Chief Sao Sokha, speaking at the force’s annual review, warned that “colour revolution must be prevented” by keeping an eye on the mentality of the country’s soldiers. He specifically said soldiers must be discouraged from sharing any posts on Facebook that favour the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“They must not share a Facebook user who says bad things – this helps propaganda for the enemy,” Sokha said.

Sokha went on to say the army needed to focus on “discipline reforms” and must “educate the mind and spirit . . . to make all soldiers understand clearly their role and work, and have the correct concept of right and wrong”.

While the armed forces are meant to be neutral, officers often speak out in support of the Cambodian People’s Party, with many high-ranking officials also serving on party committees.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said previously that the armed forces do not need to maintain neutrality towards the CNRP, because of its alleged involvement in a conspiracy against the government.

Sokha also claimed on Tuesday that the military is training to prepare for an “attack on the city” of Phnom Penh, without providing details. In the same meeting, he condemned the Sam Rainsy-led Cambodia National Rescue Movement as a “terrorist” organisation.

The movement was announced in the wake of the dissolution of the CNRP, with Rainsy pledging to use it to call for protests.

Imprisoned party leader Kem Sokha has rejected the movement, with his supporters preferring to operate under the banner of the CNRP itself.

In a speech in Battambang on Tuesday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng warned that Sokha and others could still be held legally responsible for Rainsy’s movement even if they don’t publicly support it.

“Whether they participate or not, they are part of the same illegal group . . . for the ones who do not participate, they have the idea that one day CNRP will resurrect,” he said, adding “this is also illegal”.

Despite the seeming paranoia surrounding the CNRM, Kheng said he doesn’t expect any “big issues” in the run-up to July’s national election.

“But there can be challenges because we dissolved a party which gained significant support,” he added.

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