The Interior Ministry said yesterday the Kingdom faced serious security challenges last year by attempts from a “rebel group” to topple the government.
Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak told a press conference at the Council of Ministers office yesterday that authorities had arrested nearly 200 people over the coup attempts.
He noted the threats ceased after former opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s planned return to the Kingdom on November 9 failed.
According to a ministry report obtained yesterday, the government arrested 73 members of a “rebel group” from 17 provinces and Phnom Penh over the coup attempts after the court dissolved CNRP in 2017.
It added authorities also arrested 91 others who attempted to create an illegal group, known as “Khmer Liberating Khmer”, to overthrow the legitimate government, saying the group used social media to incite people against the government.
“The Ministry of Interior gathered information on the composition of the terrorist group and its attempts to harm political and social stability, security and public order.” the report said.
“Through the strength of internal information and international cooperation, the ministry effectively and in a timely manner prevented these attempts and cracked down against a group of traitors led by Sam Rainsy who were preparing to stage a coup to overthrow the legitimate government and change the constitutional monarchy system,” it added.
The report also said 669 demonstrations and strikes across the Kingdom last year were also successfully resolved.
Gen Sopheak said at the press conference, national security was a priority for the ministry.
“I can conclude in 2019, the government and Interior Ministry have achieved great success in maintaining peace and stability,” he said. “The local authorities and National Police have played an important role to prevent and crack down on an outlawed rebel group.”
Gen Sopheak also said last year there were 3,196 crime cases, an eight percent increase from 2018, mostly involving illegal detention, kidnapping, sexual abuse, murder, robbery and rape.
The authorities cracked down on over 2,842 cases or 89 percent, and 4,119 suspects were arrested. Gen Sopheak blamed the increasing number of crimes on turmoil created by the former opposition party supporters.
“The opposition tried to cause chaos in 2019 and the traitor Sam Rainsy intended to return to the Kingdom to create insecurity and some perpetrators took the opportunity to commit the offences,” Gen Sopheak added.
However, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday disagreed with the ministry, saying the report of Interior Ministry did not reflect the real situation.
“I think what they have said is more serious than what happened,” he said. “Those people who were arrested were not rebels, but political activists who struggle for rights.”
“Their struggle is not illegal but just an advocacy because they have no guns or any other weapons to fight the government, their activities are nonviolent and peaceful,” he added.
Mr Chanrath said instead of blaming the activists, the government should acknowledge their failure to prevent crime.