Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday lamented the phrase “national rescue” had been co-opted by the opposition party and their new movement – which he claimed could “become ISIS” – because the concept of “national salvation” belonged to the ruling party.

The words “rescue” and “salvation” – which translate to the same word in Khmer – were invoked in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “United Front for National Salvation”, when his Vietnamese-backed force overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Kheng said he was sorry the opposition party “stole” the term, but the Interior Ministry could not reject the name when the Cambodia National Rescue Party was registered in 2012.

He added the Cambodia National Rescue Movement was “not alive” in Cambodia due to constitutional law that would not allow anyone to “break democracy”, and said existing laws would “prevent” it from growing.

“If we do not control it, this movement can become ISIS or create army troops at the border. It is an illegal organisation. We must kill it,” he said.

CNRM founder Sam Rainsy suggested Kheng and his party did not have a copyright or patent on those words, and that the violent threats to eliminate his movement merely showed Cambodia needed rescuing again.

“Why are they so afraid of words? Maybe it’s a tacit recognition on their part that ‘national rescue’ or ‘national salvation’ have become relevant again, but this time against them,” he said.