The commander of the Defence Ministry’s logistics brigade said on Monday that if the military commits to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, the opposition will never be able to come to power, rhetorically asking: “When the army does not allow change, who will dare to change?”
Speaking at the opening of a training course on heavy military vehicles in Phnom Penh on Monday, Hul Sam Aun, who was added to the Cambodian People’s Party’s central committee at its 2015 congress, told his transport and logistics soldiers to defend the government.
“Protect the legitimate government, do not allow a colour revolution and do not allow change – and when the army does not allow change, who will dare to change?” Sam Aun said, explaining that he could not understand why anyone would wish to see change in Cambodia.
“I want to ask, who wants change?” Sam Aun said. “If anyone wants to announce to ‘change’ or ‘rescue’, why do you want to rescue? The country is comfortable.”
Using an honorific reserved for the CPP’s most senior leaders, royals and senior monks, and in apparent reference to Hun Sen, Sam Aun said that his brigade would not allow change in Cambodia and were willing to die for the cause.
“On behalf of the soldiers in the brigade, we commit to defend Samdech, and we will not allow change, and when the army and armed forces do not allow, who dares to change? I want to ask this,” he said. “The army is the one who commits not to change, and volunteers to die.”
In an apparent challenge to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lives in Paris to avoid a slew of politically tinged convictions and charges and often criticises Hun Sen on Facebook, he added: “If you dare, come and say it in Cambodia. Why have you said it from abroad?”
Cheam Channy, a lawmaker for the Cambodia National Rescue Party who heads the opposition party’s “assembly group” committee for defence and interior, said Sam Aun was speaking out of line.
“A change of government and its leaders is not the army’s business; it is the people’s business, because we are a democratic society, and so we take elections and the people’s decisions as the main thing,” Channy said.
“Such an announcement is a warning against the will of the people,” he said. “We cannot accept it.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said he saw no issue with the remarks and that they were being misinterpreted.
“There is no problem, and this does not break the law,” Eysan said, denying the comments were a threat to not respect election results.
“He just talked about his commitment to protect the legitimate government and the head of the government who has come from the election.”