Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tea Banh shrugs off threat of international sanctions

Tea Banh shrugs off threat of international sanctions

Defence Minister Tea Banh seen at the inauguration ceremony of military unit 128 on Saturday in Stung Treng province.
Defence Minister Tea Banh seen at the inauguration ceremony of military unit 128 on Saturday in Stung Treng province. Facebook

Tea Banh shrugs off threat of international sanctions

Defence Minister Tea Banh expressed indifference to the threat of international sanctions being levied on government officials and the Cambodian economy on Saturday, while ordering his military to be ready to destroy any attempts at an alleged “colour revolution” or popular demonstration over the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Banh seemed to be taking a cue from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who at a Cabinet meeting on Friday said he was unconcerned about sanctions, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told Reuters.

Speaking in Stung Treng in front of top military generals and about 3,000 troops from infantry Brigade 128, which was created in August, he instructed the troops not to let the threat of sanctions deter them from using force.

“Some people worry once they heard about the sanctions and others seem to be scared. I am not scared at all and not even a single hair moves [in response],” Banh said.

In response to a political crackdown that has targeted the opposition, human rights organisations and the media, observers and members of the opposition have called for targeted sanctions against government officials, including visa bans and a freezing of assets abroad. Last week, United States Republican Senator Ted Cruz called for a travel ban on certain government officials if Sokha is not released from prison by November 9.

Speaking to the brigade yesterday, however, Banh seemed to goad the international community into taking such a step – saying “please freeze” and claiming that visa bans are of no importance as “we do not want to go” to countries to which travel might be restricted.

The US Embassy declined to comment yesterday and media requests to other embassies regarding sanctions remained unanswered last week.

Political commentator Meas Nee said Banh’s comments, while appearing to convey resolve, betrayed the ruling party’s real concerns – that it must do all it can to hold on to power, for which it may face punishment.

“He tries to calm down officials,” he said. “They are not sure whether they’ll be able to win [the elections] . . . So they try to undermine the opposition party and must take all consequences.”

These, he said, may include freezing assets, a “big concern” for government officials, many of whom have investments abroad.

In his speech to troops, the defence minister called for the military to suppress an alleged “colour revolution” – a term originally used for popular movements in former Soviet bloc countries that has become ubiquitous in Cambodia as a catch-all phrase for virtually all political dissent – “until 2018 or the end of 2018”, or else the country would descend into chaos. He added that soldiers did not need advance permission from superiors to smash protests.

“We need to immediately …beat up the movement demanding Kem Sokha’s release,” he said.

He then added that “some people” were “too confident” that the CNRP would not be dissolved, possibly referring to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has been publicly predicting the government will stop short of dissolving the party because it is caving to international pressure.

“In a few more days, there will be a dramatic change,” Banh said. Today is the last day for the CNRP to submit evidence to the Supreme Court in the case. Also speaking to the brigade, Military Region 1 Commander Huot Chheang called on troops to counter any “rebellious” elements.

“We are determined to protect the government created by the people’s will . . . and we are ready to take and follow orders …to fight and destroy all the time and in all forms the traitors, negative people, reactionists – both inside and outside the country – who aim to overthrow the legal government,” he said.

Yoeurng Sotheara, legal and monitoring officer with election monitor Comfrel, questioned the military’s right treat all protesters as threats.

“Authorities have nothing to question about that,” he said. “They don’t have the role to crackdown on protests . . . Instead, the role is to facilitate [peaceful demonstrations].”

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Bosba: The first Khmer woman composer from UK’s Cambridge

    Bosba Panh is just 25 years old, but she’s already accomplished some impressive milestones for herself and the Kingdom. On July 24, she graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge as the first Khmer woman composer and Khmer music graduate ever at

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway