Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday warned the government would take legal action against the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, branding it illegal and comparing it to the terrorist group ISIS.
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy launched the CNRM in California last month with the intention of helping the dissolved CNRP join the upcoming election. Mr Rainsy also said the movement hoped to secure the release of former party leader Kem Sokha and other political prisoners.
Speaking at the annual meeting of Phnom Penh City Hall, Mr Kheng compared the CNRP to ISIS, as “rebels” the government must crack down on. He ordered officials to research and study the purpose of the movement to find out who was behind it and where the money was coming from.
“I assume the movement cannot survive. The reason is because the constitution says the Kingdom of Cambodia is an individual state and we have a law on secession,” he said.
“They are doing it that way. Be cautious of it becoming ISIS,” he added. “We call it an illegal organisation.”
He urged officials to inform people that the movement was not registered with the ministry.
“It is not a secret that we have to tell people about the CNRM so they refuse to join it,” Mr Kheng said.
He added many former members of the CNRP had not joined the movement because they knew it was illegal.
“It is not threatening the rights of people. It is our responsibility to follow the law,” Mr Kheng said.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said he refused to support the movement because it would pit Cambodians against each other.
“I saw that the movement urged people to stand up and protest. I don’t support it because it will pit Khmer against Khmer and move democracy backwards, he said.
“There should be a political settlement that allows the opposition to join the general election freely and fairly.”
Mr Kheng also explained why the government decided to dissolve the CNRP, saying the party wanted to lead a “colour revolution” to overthrow the government.
“The reason is that they wanted to hold power but didn’t win the election,” he said.
“We dissolved the CNRP for violating the constitution and being contrary to democratic principles,” he said.
Mr Kheng lashed out at public opinions that favoured the opposition and said Cambodia had become a single-party dictatorship.
“This is a baseless accusation,” he said.
“What they accuse is not the truth. First, we can verify that our constitution stipulates a multi-party democracy. Second, there are about 30 political parties,” he said.
“Third, we have all kinds of elections following schedule without delay.”
Mr Kheng added that thousands of NGOs and associations had registered with the Interior Ministry, including both those who favoured and opposed the government.
He urged officials to continue strengthening public security for 2018, referencing Senate elections later this month and the national election on July 29.