Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘It is not done yet’: Hun Sen says government crackdown on ‘rebels’ isn’t stopping with Sokha



‘It is not done yet’: Hun Sen says government crackdown on ‘rebels’ isn’t stopping with Sokha

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event yesterday in Siem Reap province.
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event yesterday in Siem Reap province. Facebook

‘It is not done yet’: Hun Sen says government crackdown on ‘rebels’ isn’t stopping with Sokha

Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to foreshadow more arrests yesterday, warning that the government’s crackdown on “rebellion” would not end with the jailing of opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Speaking at the inauguration of a hotel in Siem Reap province, the premier claimed “rebels” were planning to launch a so-called colour revolution, and that Sokha’s purported collusion with the US was only the tip of the iceberg.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party president was arrested a month ago on accusations of treason based on a video of a 2013 speech in which he describes receiving assistance from the US in formulating political strategies. If found guilty, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

“I want to confirm that it is not done yet with the arrest of only one person, as there is a cluster,” Hun Sen warned, calling the purported rebels “foreign slaves”. “We will not let you continue to betray and destroy the nation and peace.”

Though he stopped short of explicitly naming the CNRP, the premier alluded to a “city rebellion” in the offing, appearing to liken it to opposition-backed protests following the disputed elections in 2013.

“The city rebel is staging a colour revolution and it cannot be allowed to take place,” he said. “You have done it and failed, but you are prepared to continue doing it.”

In a thinly veiled threat, Hun Sen referred to “senior officials” who had “made rude comments” in Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear and Siem Reap – locations coinciding with speeches given by CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua in recent days.

Opposition leader Kem Sokha is escorted by police officials following his midnight arrest in Phnom Penh in September.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha is escorted by police officials following his midnight arrest in Phnom Penh in September. AFP

Reached by phone, government spokesperson Phay Siphan said the government was “monitoring closely” the activities of groups and individuals who were allegedly involved in what he also described as an urban rebellion. He said the government had a mandate to crack down on these activities.

“We learned from the Middle East,” he said. “But the government has proof that . . . a group tries to stage anarchy on the streets, especially in the city.”

He added that there were ongoing investigations into allegedly traitors, but when asked who was under investigation, he replied: “Why would you want to know this? It’s about national security. Are you a spy?”

Sochua said that she and her team had been personally monitored by three to five plainclothes policemen over the past few days.

“In Siem Reap we were followed from the minute we got in,” she said. Sochua said she and her team, including CNRP parliamentarian Mao Molyvann, were followed by people on motorbikes when they went for meetings, lunch and dinner.

Sochua said that in Oddar Meanchey, at least five plainclothes agents monitored their meetings and took notes and pictures.

She added that as they were leaving Oddar Meanchey, they were followed by a police car. When her convoy stopped the car to ask why they were being followed, she said the officers told her that “we wanted to make sure you were safe”.

As for threats of arrests, she said that she did not know which officials were targeted and wasn’t scared of intimidation. “I worry only about one thing: about my nation, which falls into an authoritarian power,” she said.

“We can see the election without the participation of the biggest opposition party in 2018. Can the election be called free and fair?”

Hun Sen in his speech also lashed out at the supposed hypocrisy of the international community, which he maligned for having previously recognised at the UN the murderous Khmer Rouge – to which he once belonged – only to condemn him now for the arrest of a purported traitor. “I only enforce the existing law,” the premier said. “Why can I not [punish treason]? I don’t do it for my own life, but for the happiness of the whole country.”

The international community has repeatedly called on the prime minister and other senior government officials to respect the presumption of innocence and not make comments on Sokha’s alleged guilt.

The United Nations, for its part, last week passed a resolution condemning Sokha’s arrest and expressing “serious concern over the recent deterioration of the civil and political environment in Cambodia”.

Hun Sen then appealed for the public to “unite” to protect the political stability of Cambodia. “Wanting to protect the achievements, jobs and works that we have right now, it is necessary for us to jointly maintain peace and stability. Or else, a problem will happen,” he said.

Ear Sophal, a professor of diplomacy at Occidental College, said the premier’s threats to the opposition were in many ways familiar, but that his description of the CNRP was unjustified.

“Only the term ‘rebels in the city’ is new, but then the only rebels in the city historically were the Khmer Rouge who came in on 17 April, 1975,” he said via email. “Rebels have weapons. The only weapons the CNRP has are words.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Courts’ decisions now published as reference source

    The Ministry of Justice has published 44 verdicts from civil litigation cases which can be used as models for court precedents and for study by the public and those who work in pertinent fields. Publication of the verdicts on December 31 came as the result of joint

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • China firm to develop Mondulkiri airport

    Tourism to the Kingdom’s northeast corridor could experience a remarkable metamorphosis after the government decided in principle of a Chinese company to study and develop a proposal to build a regional-level airport in Mondulkiri province, according to industry insiders. The Council of Ministers said

  • More than 5K workers rush from Thailand amid outbreak

    Following the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Thailand’s Samut Sakhon province, Cambodian migrants working in Thailand were gripped by worry over the situation and many rushed to return to their homeland. Over the past 10 days, more than 5,000 migrant workers have returned from Thailand through