Defence Minister General Tea Banh yesterday told Asean member states and eight other countries how the recent government crackdown on media outlets and NGOs was legal and justified.
Speaking at the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting, Gen Banh said Cambodia always becomes the target of unfair international criticism over its law enforcement against NGOs, media outlets and political parties breaking the law.
“The government took legal action through the law,” Gen Tea Banh said. “I assure you these measures were not illegal like some critics say.”
In August, the Foreign Ministry ordered the National Democratic Institute’s closure and the expulsion of its foreign staff on the grounds that it was not registered with the government.
The decision to shut down the office of the NDI, which had operated in Cambodia for more than 25 years, was made after information emerged it had helped set out a strategy for the opposition CNRP ahead of next year’s national elections.
In September, the Cambodia Daily decided to cease operations after they were unable to pay a $6 million tax bill, while Radio Free Asia closed its office in Phnom Penh claiming government pressure was behind the move.
Also in September, environmental NGO Mother Nature shut down, while the Ministry of Interior ordered the Equitable Cambodia land rights NGO to suspend its operations temporarily after hundreds of villagers filed a complaint against it.
Gen Tea Banh said Prime Minister Hun Sen is building peace in Cambodia, and criticism of the government’s actions from other countries cause more problems than solutions.
“We must absolutely fight against any colour revolution and must not let it happen in Cambodia,” he said.