A former soldier living in Canada who last month called on the armed forces to turn against the government renewed that call in a video posted yesterday, warning the government that it had 30 days to release jailed opposition members and rights workers or face the wrath of the armed forces.
Som Sovanara – a member of the dissident Khmer National Liberation Front, which bills itself as non-violent, but has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the prime minister – received asylum in Canada after fleeing Cambodia in 2013.
In the video, Sovanara repeats his call to the armed forces to “be ready to go against the authoritarian leadership of the CPP, Hun Sen and Yuon communists”, using a word for the Vietnamese considered derogatory by many.
He also goes on to demand the government release jailed opposition members, human rights activists and KNLF members within 30 days, and release CCTV footage of political analyst Kem Ley’s murder.
Despite his apparent allusions to a potential coup, Sovanara has previously insisted that his message is purely non-violent, and simply a call for “real democracy and peace”. Having served in the military in Preah Vihear between 2007 and 2010, he has also claimed he is in contact with current members of the military.
Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat yesterday said Sovanara’s call to arms was “stupid”, and accused him of provoking violence against the government.
“Any armed forces acting against the legal government is an illegal action, and the Cambodian people will not accept that . . . We are working in cooperation with other partners to spot him . . . but we have not yet spotted him,” Socheat added, while refusing to say whether Cambodian authorities had reached out to their Canadian counterparts for help.