Prime Minister Hun Sen branded the opposition party a “terrorist network” yesterday, while vowing to “cut the arms and legs” of the alleged operation and its purported attempt at “colour revolution” after the disputed 2013 national election.
The premier and government officials have repeatedly returned to the narrative that the CNRP has been plotting such a revolution with foreign assistance – in part as justification for the jailing of party President Kem Sokha on charges of “treason”.
Meeting with garment workers as part of an ongoing charm offensive ahead of next year’s national election, the premier said factory employees had been used by the CNRP to try to overthrow the CPP-led government, after wage protests and postelection demonstrations merged.
“Now [we] will cut the grass under your feet, then cut the legs and arms of this terrorist network,” he said. Also in the “network” are NGOs, which he threatened would receive no reprieve for their involvement.
“We do not allow any organisation, whether local or international, hiding under financial provisions, human rights or democracy or any individuals who [want to] destroy the peace,” he said, before applauding himself for stopping the alleged activities.
The latest threats of dismemberment are reminiscent of violent rhetoric used in the run-up to the June commune elections, when Defence Minister Tea Banh said he would “smash the teeth” of any postelection protesters, and the premier himself said there would be 100 to 200 bodies in the streets were there attempts to change the government.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Hun Sen used the terrorist tag to illustrate his point that protesters were violent during the 2013 demonstrations.
“You see, they used slingshots as their weapons, bottles of gasoline thrown at authorities. They used metal bars and rocks as their weapons. It is violent,” he said. After months of peaceful demonstrations following the election, clashes between security forces and demonstrators erupted in early January 2014, after demonstrators were arrested. At least four demonstrators were shot dead by police.
CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua declined to comment on the prime minister’s “terrorist” reference, but pointed out that it comes just days after Hun Sen told exiled opposition figure Sam Rainsy: “Prepare your coffin.”
“He imagines that there is a colour revolution, but he knows there is no colour revolution, because workers were only demanding higher wages from the government,” she said yesterday, referring to the protests after the national election.
Chhul Sreymom, a 38-year-old garment worker, said the people in the streets had only been asking for higher wages and that attempts to paint their actions as terrorism were baseless. “They want to blame our protests, but it is baseless to blame others and clear themselves for the [ensuing crackdown],” she said.