Minister of Interior Sar Kheng warned the authorities to be wary of any untoward phenomena that could disrupt the July’s national election process, noting that certain extremists had caused issues in 2013.

Sar Kheng was addressing an annual meeting held on March 28 by the Prey Veng Provincial Administration to review its work results in 2022 and set plans for 2023.

“The election day itself may be tense, so we must be alert and prevent any flare ups that may affect the Kingdom’s free and fair electoral process. In 2013, this very province experienced disruptions caused by extremists, especially in Kdoeung Reay commune, Kanh Chriech district, if I remember correctly,” he said.

Referring to ethnic Vietnamese, he added: “They incited people by suggesting that the yuon had gone to the polls, but actually our working groups only registered the local residents who were permitted to do so under electoral law. How would it be possible for Vietnamese people to vote?”

He said the rumours were created by extremist politicians to create a chaotic environment that would enable them to implement their plans.

“They deliberately orchestrated these events to support their ultimate goal – that of not recognising the outcome of the election,” he added.

He advised the officials to heed the lessons of 2013, reminding them that the unrest had not only occurred in Prey Veng, but in Phnom Penh and several other centres.

“Obviously, once the ballots were tallied, the results of the election were clear. The unrest was part of a campaign to enact a colour revolution – or coup – to topple the elected government. By disputing the outcome of the election, they refused to accept the will of the majority of the people, who voted for the ruling party,” he said.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on March 29 that he recalled the disruptions and protests. They had created confusion around the election and refused to recognise its outcome. This disrupted the implementation of democracy and of the Cambodian electoral process.

“The government remembers what took place and should make advance preparations to prevent any extremists from interfering with the democratic process,” he said.

“Ever since the first UNTAC election was held in 1993, Cambodia has succeeded in conducting elections on its own, despite these disruptions,” he added.

He explained that for society to function smoothly in a democratic way, parliamentary elections must be held in line with the Constitution and electoral laws.

“This is the only way to maintain political stability, social order and continued development. If we fail to follow these democratic norms, we may face a return to political crises. We have to ensure the process of implementing democracy as stipulated under the law,” he concluded.

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Center for Development and Peace, told The Post on March 29 that it was important for the authorities to maintain security and safety, but this didn’t necessarily mean they have to stifle freedom of expression or prevent political parties or individuals from participating in the electoral process.

“We need to ensure that the electoral rights and political freedoms of all political parties are protected, and that civil social organisations are not prevented from conducting their work,” he said.