An opposition spokesman’s comments that the military belongs to the nation and not any one party amounts to “incitement”, Deputy RCAF Commander-in-Chief Chea Dara said yesterday, pledging to support Prime Minister Hun Sen “forever”, in a statement published on government-aligned website Fresh News.
Dara – who in 2015 told officials at a meeting in Phnom Penh that “the army belongs to the Cambodian People’s Party” because the long-ruling party created the armed forces in 1979 – said the army would always protect the government.
“We all together absolutely commit to protect the Constitution, the King, and Samdech Akeak Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the prime minister and the legitimate head of the government that has come from the people’s will,” Dara said, according to Fresh News.
The military, Dara said, would support “Hun Sen, the president of the Cambodian People’s Party, as prime minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia for the next [electoral] mandate – and forever,” according to the report.
Dara, who has been the only top general to stray from the military’s official line that it only defends the CPP government because it is the elected government of the day, was responding to a Sunday speech by CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann.
Sovann’s pledge to upgrade the army if the CNRP ever forms a government, Dara said, was “bad propaganda to create incitement and to attract [votes], which we cannot totally accept, and we consider this as incitement and a cause of insecurity”.
Sovann could not be reached yesterday. However, in his speech delivered last weekend as part of the CNRP’s campaign for Sunday’s commune council elections, Sovann had told supporters not to fear Hun Sen’s latest threats of a war breaking out between the parties.
“The Cambodia National Rescue Party does not have soldiers, and our Royal Cambodia Armed Forces belong to the nation and serve the nation,” Sovann said, pledging to improve the army if ever elected.
“We would train our solders to be stronger, and we would save up money to buy advanced weapons for our soldiers to serve and protect the country,” he said.
The CPP and the military habitually claim to be independent of each other. Yet most top leaders of the military also hold high positions in the CPP, including Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, who sits on the party’s elite 13-person standing committee.