Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday compared the opposition’s protests in the wake of the 2013 elections to the Khmer Rouge regime’s violent takeover in the 1970s, saying they were similarly dangerous.
Speaking at the 64th anniversary of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Kampong Speu province, Banh said the opposition’s conduct in the postelection period – which the government has cast as an attempted “colour revolution” – would have “caused harm to the people” had it not been averted in time.
“We clearly understand: the Khmer Rouge regime was terribly uncivilised and the organisation leading the colour revolution is similarly dangerous for the country,” Banh said in an apparent reference to the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
He argued that colour revolutions had “damaged” over 20 countries, and that all the government’s recent measures against NGOs, opposition leader Kem Sokha and certain media outlets were justified.
“We will not tolerate the poisonous ideology,” he said.
As proof of a purported revolution, Banh cited garment wage protests following the election in 2013. One wage protest turned violent and security forces fired on the crowd, killing several, before going on to violently disperse nonviolent opposition demonstrations over election results being held elsewhere.
CNRP lawmaker Cheam Channy, however, rejected Banh’s allegations. “For the gathering in 2013, it was related to the election,” he said. “We have never thought about colour revolution, we just heard [government officials] say it in the news.”
Analyst Meas Nee said he saw no signs of colour revolution in Cambodia. “The royal government uses this word to scare the people,” he said.