The Ministry of Defence on Saturday issued a statement strongly condemning self-exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy for appealing to the Cambodian army to rise against the government.
“The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces respects and strictly obeys the Prime Minister’s orders and recommendations on January 24, to thwart traitors’ attempts to create a colour revolution and destroy the peace of the Cambodian people,” Ministry spokesman General Chhum Sucheat said in the statement, noting that RCAF is prepared to arrest Mr Rainsy if he returns to Cambodia.
“The RCAF asks all personnel not to follow Sam Rainsy’s appeal,” Gen Sucheat said. “We consider every activity supporting Sam Rainsy as being illegal and are obliged to take actions that maintain security, social public order and peace for the nation.”
Reached by phone on Saturday, Defence Minister General Tea Banh noted that Mr Rainsy’s appeal to the armed forces was repetitive and had no impact.
“We take orders from Samdech Techo [Mr Hun Sen], no matter what,” Gen Banh said, “There is no doubt that the armed forces will take action against a coward like him [Mr Rainsy], to ensure the nation is unharmed.”
General Vong Pisen, RCAF commander-in-chief, on Saturday also issued a statement pledging to thwart any action aimed at overthrowing Mr Hun Sen.
Mr Rainsy on Friday took to Facebook to brand Mr Hun Sen as a dictator and called on the armed forces not to shoot at innocent citizens who would gather to welcome him on his return to Cambodia.
“I call on the armed forces not to stand by the current dictatorial and traitorous regime, but to be instead on the side of the people who are demanding freedom and justice, as well as a new and responsible leadership with integrity for Cambodia,” he said.
Speaking to thousands of garment workers on Friday in Kampot province, Mr Hun Sen said he was anxiously waiting for Mr Rainsy’s return, adding that the Interior Ministry on Thursday received a court order to arrest Mr Rainsy.
“I want you [Mr Rainsy] to come where you belong in accordance with the court’s verdict. I am eagerly waiting you,” he said, “I regret that I let you flee earlier.”
Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Saturday told CPP’s senior officials in a meeting that Mr Rainsy is currently undecided and his plan to return was just part of his political trick.
“He plans to return, but there’s just a 50 percent chance that he won’t because it’s a risky political game,” he said. “Rainsy is now a convict and also a suspect since he is involved in many court cases.”
Mr Kheng also noted that Mr Rainsy would lose the trust of the international community and former opposition party members if he does not return to Cambodia as promised.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said national forces should not gather against Mr Rainsy and treat him as if he is a foreign invader, adding there should be no violence involved.
“I dare Sam Rainsy to return as he has promised and request the authorities to defuse the present tension by easing his return and his arrest without resorting to any violence,” Mr Mong Hay said.