Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit celebrated its eighth anniversary yesterday, with the unit’s leaders praising Hun Sen to a heavily armed audience flanked by tanks, while also warning the opposition not to underestimate it.
Speaking at the unit’s headquarters in Takhmao – adjacent to the premier’s residence – bodyguard chief Hing Bun Heang took the opportunity to directly address the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, a day after the widely condemned arrest of its president, Kem Sokha, over accusations of “treason”.
“During the anniversary we must display our weapons and equipment . . . and keep security and public order in order to show serious unity,” Bun Heang said.
“This unit has the obligation to protect our nation, homeland and security for our Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen,” he added, invoking the premier’s full honorific title.
Turning his attention to the opposition, Bun Heang also boasted about his force’s heavy artillery.
“You said it wrong, CNRP,” he said, claiming the unit had 100 tanks, not 50.
Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Khoung Sreng also used the event to criticise the opposition.
“There is only Hun Sen who has the will and love of peace . . . please brothers see his heroism clearly and do not believe the incitement from the foreigners and ill-intended people,” Sreng said. “How much have they ever helped the nation?”
The governor went on to say Sokha deserved to be arrested, and warned the audience not to listen to the lies of those who “represent themselves as the fathers of democracy in Cambodia”.
In an interview after his speech, Bun Heang and his deputy, Deang Sarun, said the unit was prepared to deal with any opposition demonstrations.
The bodyguard unit – officially formed as a separate entity from Brigade 70 in 2009 – previously made headlines in 2015, when members of the force were videotaped brutally beating two opposition lawmakers during a protest outside the National Assembly.
“The bodyguard unit is ready . . . to crack down on crimes as necessary,” Sarun said.
“When there is an issue like a protest or strike to demand something that opposes democracy or breaks the law . . . this force will cooperate with Military Police and National Police to maintain security,” Bun Heang added.
A spokesperson for the opposition could not be reached for comment on the bodyguard gathering, but earlier yesterday, CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua pledged the party would not organise or participate in any protests.