Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned of legal action against the opposition CNRP over 2014 demonstrations that left at least four dead and dozens injured, labelling the protests an attempted colour revolution.
During a speech to garment workers, Mr Hun Sen said the protests, which were a response to the contested 2013 election and demands for a higher minimum wage for garment workers, were organised by the opposition as an attempted colour revolution to overthrow the legitimate government.
Mr Hun Sen signalled out the demonstrations near Kambol commune, where he said the opposition party broke down a garment factory gate to have workers join the protest.
“This was an act of betrayal; the opposition has to be held accountable according to the law,” he said. “It was not a demonstration to demand better working conditions, but a demonstration to topple the government by a colour revolution.”
“The election was already done, and the opposition wanted to topple the government,” he added. “They came onto the streets and brought workers to join them, and when some workers refused, they broke down the factory gate.”
Hundreds of thousands of workers took part in the 2014 protests to demand a $160 minimum wage in Phnom Penh.
As the situation came to a head, the government sent armed military police to Veng Sreng street, the epicentre of the protests and a road teeming with garment factories.
According to the government, four protesters were killed and more than 40 were injured when police opened fire on rioters.
After the unrest in Kambol commune, 23 people were arrested and accused of incitement to use violence in order to cause chaos and social insecurity. Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced 13 to prison for between one and four years, but they served only five months.
Mu Sochua, vice president of CNRP who fled the country this week under threat of arrest, said it was not the opposition who killed the workers in 2014.
CNRP leader Kem Sokha was last month charged with treason over comments made in 2013 video footage from Australia-based CBN news, which showed him saying the US government had been helping him to push for regime change in Cambodia since 1993.
Mr Hun Sen said Mr Sokha’s arrest was only the beginning of a crackdown on dissenters, adding he would not allow anyone to destroy peace in the country.
Nearly half of the opposition’s lawmakers are overseas, with several having left following the arrest of Mr Sokha on internationally decried charges of treason.