Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday portrayed his forces as prepared for a David-and-Goliath-style showdown with the US, which he blamed for sowing unrest around the world, and whose purported “colour revolution” in the Kingdom he vowed to quash.
The comments doubled down on the ongoing government broadside against the US for allegedly helping opposition leader Kem Sokha attempt to topple the government – an accusation seemingly based on a 2013 video in which Sokha describes receiving advice from the US, and for which the CNRP president is currently jailed on widely condemned charges of “treason”.
Speaking at a meeting with senior military officials, Banh said the US – which he referred to as “the superpower” – had attempted to cause unrest in countries unfavourable to it under the guise of being “the father of democracy”, as it had with the purported Sokha treason plot.
“They just take the chance to organise those plans, and they have organised it for a long time,” he said. “We need to prepare to face the future challenge, because it will come. We cannot forget their ambitions.”
He said it was the US’s foreign policy to cause turmoil in countries for its own benefit, pointing to its interference during the Khmer Rouge era and the ensuing decades of civil war. Citing what he characterised as widespread bafflement over Sokha’s arrest and Hun Sen’s apparent antagonism towards the US, he said the premier had been able to take the extreme measure only because Cambodia was able to fight back and would not be cowed.
“I dare to say this, and we dare to arrest the opposition leader, so we will not step back, but we only will step forward,” he said. “They put sanctions on us in the 1980s until we lost flesh and blood. But we will face it.”
Banh’s comments were not his first provocative remarks – before the June commune elections he vowed to “smash the teeth” of would-be opposition protesters – and came in the midst of a sustained effort by government officials to publicly justify the arrest of Sokha and attack the US.
Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat yesterday backed up his superior, saying that no efforts would be spared to ensure internal security, but said the minister’s comments on “future challenges” did not refer to military actions.
“We will not allow them to use people or forces to destroy the happiness of people,” he said. “[But] we have no capacity to go to war with the US.”