Party leader detained over military slurs

Mom Sophon / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Sourn Serey Ratha was pardoned by the King in 2015. Supplied

The National Police arrested president of the nascent Khmer Power Party Sourn Serey Ratha yesterday evening after he posted messages on social media claiming Khmer forces would lose in a war against Laos and incited civil disobedience.

The arrest came after a border confrontation between Laos and Cambodia in a disputed border area in Stung Treng province.

Prime Minister Hun Sen flew to Vientiane and held talks with his Lao counterpart on Saturday morning. Laos promised to withdraw its troops by yesterday.

Mr Ratha, who was pardoned by the King in July 2015 after being sentenced to seven years in prison for involvement in a national conspiracy, wrote on Facebook on Saturday that, “when war happens to Laos, the result will not be different as the war with Thailand.

“The Khmer people and national military will die on the battlefield, the thieves will be promoted, collect money and enjoy with their women happily.

“However, although we know it is a war to build up our status or position, the thief pretends to be our hero, to mislead us, Khmer people must unite, encourage, and help our nation’s national army, who sacrifice their bodies to defend our territory.”

Part of the Laos-Cambodia border is still to be demarcated. Fresh News

According to a National Police spokesman, Mr Ratha was arrested on charges of urging the military force to disobey national defence orders. According to the National Police website, Mr Ratha faces up to five years in prison.

Gen Mao Sophan, commander of Brigade 70, who ordered troops to defend the Cambodian-Laos border area, condemned the post and asked the court to severely punish Mr Ratha.

“Relating to his words posted on Facebook, it is a serious insult to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who have sacrificed their lives in protecting the land and peace for Cambodia,” he said.

He added that both the head of the government and the army had made efforts to keep the peace with Laos, and that the words of Mr Ratha were unacceptable.

“All that we have achieved is bloodless, and the Lao troops have withdrawn from Cambodian territory. I ask the court to punish him very seriously for insulting the national defence troops,” Mr Sophan said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said yesterday “that as of 4pm on August 12 the Lao army that invaded the territory of Cambodia’s Stung Treng province have withdrawn. Our troops have already gone back to their bases. However, the Cambodian army is ready to defend the country and territory in any situation.”

Cambodian troops have returned to their bases. Fresh News

The withdrawal of the troops was made after Prime Minister Hun Sen visited and negotiated with Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Vientiane on Saturday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Hun Sen and Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith agreed to three main points.

Firstly, the remaining Laos troops would completely withdraw from nearby Ou Alai and Ou Ta Ngav area in Sieng Pang district by yesterday.

Secondly, Cambodian forces that have moved to disputed areas would be ordered to return to their strongholds.

Thirdly, the two prime ministers advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Border Commission of the aim to continue working together to resolve the remaining 14 percent of border demarcation.

The controversy along the border in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province bordering Laos’Attapeu province first occurred in early February, when armed Lao forces entered Cambodian territory and barred Cambodian military engineers from construction a border post.

Negotiations did not seem to receive any results, until Mr Hun Sen’s ultimatum that the Lao army withdraw all forces from Cambodia, or Cambodia would use its military to expel Laos troops.

Cambodian troops and armoured vehicles were sent to the border, but the confrontation did not lead to battle.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay, who has been monitoring the border situation between the two nations, said the outcome seems to be delayed as the incident  lasted until April, and Cambodia’s reaction is very recent.

He said it seems the government delayed solving the problem until the 2018 election was nearer, letting them use the border victory to bolster CPP support.

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