Social Affairs Minister Vong Soth’s remarks last week that anyone protesting the results of next year’s national election would be attacked with bamboo were not meant as a threat, but simply as a “reminder” of how the government would deal with dissent, the ministry insisted in a statement.
Speaking at a ceremony last Monday, Soth said that Prime Minister Hun Sen had made it clear to any would-be post-election opposition protesters that “the bottom end of the bamboo will hit their heads, and they will not be allowed to have the right to protest”.
The following day, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Cheam Channy described the remark as “a threat against the people”, but in a statement on Thursday, the Social Affairs Ministry maintained that Soth was simply describing the government’s stated policies.
“Vong Soth’s remark was not a threat, and it was just a reminder for the extremists who always cause disruptions to the people’s happiness through their protests against the results of the election, like in the past,” the statement said.
“Moreover, the leader’s remark was encouragement for the security and safety of the upcoming elections in Cambodia, without allowance for opportunists to cause instability and destroy Cambodia’s peace.”
The CNRP led months of protests after the July 2013 national election, which it said was marred by mass irregularities. The protests dovetailed with a nationwide strike of garment workers but the demonstrations were violently suppressed in January 2014.