The political heat, accompanied with security risk, is rising amidst the speculative return of the self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy on this November 9th, when Cambodia celebrates its national day and water festival the following days.
Sam Rainsy has been convicted by the Cambodian court for a number of charges, the latest one relating to his call for a coup d’etat against a legitimate government.
Early this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen, with firm confidence, said that the water festival will be on despite coup threat. As such, the gauntlet has been thrown at Rainsy and his misguided, misled flock of supporters.
Rainsy knows the risks he is facing, if indeed his statement to return is real. He must remember that treason is still treason and calling on the reigning monarch to abdicate to suite his political agenda, is similar to one Lon Nol turning the country into a republic.
What are the security risks?
The opposition movement has opted for the weapon of last resort which is to organize what it calls a “people revolution” together with the strategy to convince the armed forces to rebel against the government.
The security risk is relatively high due to two factors, namely the unknown real power base of the opposition and foreign intervention.
Although it is well known that Sam Rainsy is a coward, it must also be pointed out that he is a master shenanigan and a manipulator who would stop to any level to try achieve his objective. The evolving circumstances might force him to take extreme measures. His political mission has been to seek regime change, particularly to remove Prime Minister Hun Sen from office by all means.
If he dares to return, he will face arrest for sure. He knows it well.
The public mood is unpredictable. It also hard to know how many people will join the movement. It seems that some Cambodian workers in Thailand and South Korea are the main supporters of the movement.
The local support network of the movement has been significantly disintegrated and weakened. Some opposition senior members have created their own political parties, some members have fled the country, and some members have been neutralized. While others just simply faded away, realising the folly of their actions.
External interference would be more sophisticated. Some foreign countries and politicians, especially those who wish to see a regime change in Cambodia, would directly or indirectly support the opposition movement although they know that such action violates the non-interference principle enshrined in the UN Charter.
Can the government control the situation?
So far, the government has shown confidence in controlling and managing the security risk deriving from the renewed political momentum of the opposition movement to challenge the legitimacy of the government including the coup attempt.
Some measures include seeking support from ASEAN friends to arrest Sam Rainsy, deploying security forces to monitor the activities of the supporters of Sam Rainsy’s return, applying strict legal measures to punish those who support the return of Sam Rainsy, and strengthening border control.
Information collection and analysis is very critical at this critical moment in order to analyse the real strength of the opposition, clearly understand public perception and attitude towards the return of Sam Rainsy, scrutinise the complex network of foreign support of the movement.
Rainsy’s state backers, overt or covert, must engage the Royal Government and not partake in regime change activities of any kind with the attitude of dialogue and not from a standpoint of imposing their will on Cambodia.
Strengthening internal unity within the government and the party is the defining factor. Although there are certain differences and power competition between different groups with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), solidary and internal unity remain strong.
The CPP leaders have gone through uncountable hard times and good times together since 1970s. Hence these leaders have fond, unforgettable memory of struggling together to achieve one common purpose, that is to give Cambodians a peaceful and prosperous life.
As long as the unity within the CPP prevails, no outside forces can challenge the powerbase and legitimacy of the CPP-led government. It is crucial, more than ever, for the CPP leaders from all generations to stay united and stand up against political and security threats both from within and outside.