Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy has called for a popular uprising after the July 29 national elections to force a change of government.
He called on the armed forces and people to stand united to fight the ruling Cambodian People’s Party-led government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which is widely expected to win the polls.
Speaking during an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA), the exiled Rainsy, who is now president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), called on all corners of the Kingdom to fight against Hun Sen’s leadership after the election.
“At that time, the international community will not communicate with Hun Sen’s government like today. After the July 29 election, it will be a new situation and I, in my capacity as president of the CNRM, appeal to all Cambodians to stand up together. As you see, everything around us is dissolved, they sell everything. Nothing remains,” Rainsy claimed.
In response, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Rainsy’s call for an uprising will not influence Cambodians or the armed forces. He said the call was nothing more than the former’s hasty pre-election judgment and rebel rousing.
“The election has not been held yet, why won’t the international community recognise it? Cambodians have not voted yet, and Rainsy has spoken too soon. This is just the pre-judgment of convict Rainsy,” he said.
In the RFA interview, Rainsy also claimed that in the near future, almost no one will live in Cambodia as the people will migrate to neighbouring countries.
“The Vietnamese and Chinese are coming into our country more and more. This is the last stage. We must stand up together,” he said.
His previous appeal to Cambodians not to vote in the election, Rainsy said, was a silent protest.
He said civil servants, teachers, students, vendors and workers must rise up to stage demonstrations and strike against the government to demand change.
“And on that occasion, I also appeal to the armed forces, especially low-ranking soldiers. Why do you still serve the dictators?,” he asked, claiming that while they became rich, low-ranking soldiers became poorer.
“We are very poor. Don’t listen to the order of the dictators. All soldiers who have weapons must protect the people. Don’t use weapons to shoot people on the orders of the dictators,” he said.
Eysan reiterated that Rainsy’s call will fall on deaf ears as the people and the armed forces will not care about his appeal. “They don’t care about exiled people. There will be no uprising against the government,” he stressed.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Kieu Sopheak also brushed off calls for an uprising. He said that Rainsy keeps attracting legal problems for himself and will not be able to escape the long arm of the law.
“Convict Rainsy is falling deeper and deeper into the net of Cambodian law. He will be seriously punished for insulting the King, for example. I think he will be given four or five years in jail. [He can’t] free [himself],” Sopheak said, referring to Rainsy’s claim that a letter from King Norodom Sihamoni urging the people to vote in the July 29 elections was made “under duress”.
Officials have called his claims an insult to the King.
Separately, at a fundraising event on Saturday in Massachusetts, US, former lawmaker in the Supreme Court-dissolved CNRP Yem Ponhearith also made a call to Cambodians.
“Please think carefully and clearly as our nation faces a serious [election] and the media are inciting and dividing society,” he said.
Ponhearith claimed that the current environment is not conducive for an election as there is no viable opposition party that can challenge the CPP.
“Can this election be acceptable when they arrest and imprison the president of the CNRP [Kem Sokha]? When they dissolve the opposition party? When they close independent media and close various organisations that work for the society and nation?” he asked.
Eysan, responding to Ponhearith’s comments, said there is no turmoil because the media, radio stations and TV channels are still operating normally, and if there was in fact turmoil in the Kingdom, reporters would not be able to carry on as they are now.
“So his words have no value as they do not reflect the reality of what is really happening in Cambodia,” Eysan said.
He said the people have a right to choose whether or not to vote in the election and that there is no law that punishes those who decide not to cast their ballot.
However, he warned: “Those who incite people not to vote and those who appeal to people not to vote violate the citizens’ freedoms and rights, and they will be punished under the law.”