Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday instructed his subordinates and the general public to refrain from committing violence and destroying national security if the public decide to welcome the return of exiled former opposition leaders.
Last week, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who left the Kingdom due to mounting court cases, and seven others met in Minnesota in the United States and decided they would return to the Kingdom to participate in a non-violent political campaign to demand the release of Kem Sokha, the restoration of democracy and the reinstatement of the now-dissolved CNRP.
In March, Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued arrest warrants for Mr Rainsy and the seven others. The court charged them with conspiracy and incitement to commit crimes over comments made on Facebook criticising the government.
In May, the court sentenced Mr Rainsy in absentia to a total of eight years in prison after it found that Mr Rainsy was guilty of demoralising the armed forces and insulting King Norodom Sihamoni.
In the past, Mr Rainsy reiterated that his supporters should greet them during their return to the Kingdom, and participate in the campaign.
Speaking during a ceremony held for incoming Battambang provincial councillors yesterday, Mr Kheng said the authorities must raise awareness and understanding toward the detrimental consequences of demonstrations led by Mr Rainsy’s group.
“Ensuring social and political stability is a vital task. We must not torture anyone in order to obtain peace. We have laws, so we must implement them,” he said. “I hope our officers could help and educate people about this problem.”
“I noted that some people had no idea about what they’re getting themselves into [in joining Mr Rainsy’s campaign],” Mr Kheng added. “What would they gain in return when the country falls into war? It’s not easy to restore the country’s social stability.”
He said that Mr Rainsy and his companions are not barred from returning to the Kingdom, but noted that they face arrests, and that police must be vigilant and take action.
“Please come, no one forbids you. Come as you wish,” Mr Kheng said. “For those who face arrest warrants, we must take action in accordance with the law.”
Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun, spokesman for the National Police, yesterday said the eight are attempting to create chaos in the Kingdom by announcing their return.
Lt Gen Kim Khoeun said the National Police is ready to arrest the eight.
“We have all the arrest warrants,” he said. “We are ready to address this problem for our citizens.”
He noted that National Police are monitoring Mr Rainsy’s supporters’ social media activities on Facebook and YouTube.
Seng Mengbunrong, a CNRP activist, yesterday on Facebook called on all supporters to spread the information that the eight could return before the end of the year.
“It could be any day in July, August or September. If we love democracy, please come and join to welcome their arrival,” Mr Mengbunrong said. “We must post information, pictures and videos related to them in order to inform all Cambodian people.”
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said Mr Rainsy’s return would only stir dispute among supporters of the CPP and the CNRP.
“I still believe that leaders of both parties should sit down and talk,” Mr Chanrath said. “What they are doing right now could only cause social concerns among the public and investors.”