The Kingdom’s armed forces stand ready to arrest the leaders of Cambodia’s opposition party, one of the country’s highest-ranking military officers said in video uploaded to social media yesterday.
Four-star General Kun Kim, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said his troops would “enforce the law” if they receive an order to seize CNRP president Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha.
The comments followed the Supreme Court setting an appeal hearing date for Sokha who, like the self-exiled Rainsy, faces several cases widely considered politically motivated.
Discussing the necessity of “arresting” the pair, he said, “I am a law enforcer, and the armed forces defend the government. Provided that there are orders, I must enforce, I must defend the government.”
The general, a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen, further said that if RCAF received orders, it would “guarantee to arrest” the CNRP leaders.
“Even . . . if we expend flesh and blood, we must enforce the law,” said the general, who has been labelled the premier’s “axe man” by Human Rights Watch.
Kim’s comments are the latest of many speeches about politics by top RCAF brass, many of whom are openly hostile to the opposition. That pattern drew a stern rebuke from a visiting US State Department official in July, who threatened to suspend military assistance.
According to the general statute for military personnel, the armed forces have a duty to manage the “defence of the motherland and the supreme interests of the nation”, but in “necessary circumstances” can defend public security and assist citizens.
Speaking yesterday, Kevin Nauen, a senior research fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said that the military’s role should be limited to external defence, with police handling court enforcement.
“Such military involvement in ongoing internal politics runs contrary to good governance of the security sector, but it also demonstrates a lack of respect for the role of the police,” Nauen said. “Also . . . these comments can be taken as an indication that the outcome has already been decided by high-level authorities and imposed on the court.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said all branches of Cambodia’s security forces could “enforce the law”, provided there was a court order.
The Supreme Court on Friday will hear an appeal by Sokha’s lawyers over his refusal to submit to summonses for questioning tied to his alleged affair with a hairdresser, a case for which a trial date has already been set.
The attorneys have appealed on the grounds that Sokha has parliamentary immunity and that his lawyers had submitted valid explanations about his absences.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton