Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday defended the recent wave of arrests against dozens of people allegedly linked to a coup being planned by Sam Rainsy for his return to the Kingdom next month.
According to the Justice Ministry, a dozen people have been arrested so far and two dozen others are still at large.
The arrests came after Mr Rainsy announced his planned return on November 9 and called on citizens to mobilise and partake in his “nine fingers” campaign, which is considered as a coup plot by the government.
Mr Kheng said even though the government has been criticised by the public over the arrests, they were made lawfully.
“It’s normal to hear differing opinions over the arrests, but supporting Mr Rainsy in his attempt to overthrow the government is wrong,” he said.
Mr Kheng noted that Mr Rainsy is a felon who was convicted in several court cases for crimes such as defamation and insulting the King. He said anyone offering support to Mr Rainsy intends to commit crimes.
“They crossed the line, so this is not a threat to their freedom of expression,” Mr Kheng said. “Mr Rainsy violated the law – he insulted the King – and he is attempting to stage a coup through a colour revolution.”
According to the Kampong Cham provincial court, two people were charged with conspiracy yesterday for supporting Mr Rainsy’s plans. Yesterday, Kampong Speu provincial police arrested two former CNRP officials, Ou Yong and Puy Tak, and accused them of incitement to commit a crime.
At least three other courts yesterday issued multiple arrest warrants for more of Mr Rainsy’s supporters.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said even those in exile in Thailand will be arrested for aiding Mr Rainsy.
Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap yesterday said government officials were told to warn the public against supporting Mr Rainsy.
“Our officials have been disseminating information and educating people on the consequences of joining the coup,” Mr Santepheap said. “We hope they would not fall for the tricks of Mr Rainsy.”
He said anyone involved in supporting Mr Rainsy should turn themselves in before legal action is taken against them.
“The individual must confess before they are charged to be pardoned,” Mr Santepheap said. “Those who have been charged, the court will consider clemency if they [confess] and regret their actions.”
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said the crackdown on Mr Rainsy’s supporters will only stir anger from the public.
Mr Chanrath said the government must consider people’s right to be involved in politics.
“The government has taken [the crackdown] too far. It is a clear violation of human rights and people’s right to politics,” he said. “The international community will judge Cambodia based on the acts of the government.”