RCAF head calls for readi­ness

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Mech Dara

IN THE midst of an on­go­ing crack­down on the op­po­si­tion, armed forces Com­man­der-in-Chief and rul­ing party stand­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber Pol Saroeun has called on all com­man­ders to crack down on ex­trem­ist el­e­ments be­fore next year’s national elec­tions and to con­tinue the “fight in the war of ide­olo­gies”.

The Royal Cam­bo­dian Armed Forces leader’s com­ments are in line with those from other se­nior gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, who have re­peat­edly called on their sub­or­di­nates to stamp out pur­ported at­tempts to over­throw the Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party-led gov­ern­ment.

The state­ments come dur­ing one of the tens­est po­lit­i­cal chap­ters in re­cent mem­ory, with op­po­si­tion Cam­bo­dia National Res­cue Party Pres­i­dent Kem Sokha jailed on widely de­cried charges of “trea­son”, and other mem­bers of the party un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for be­ing “spies” in his al­leged plot to top­ple the gov­ern­ment.

At a meet­ing to dis­cuss RCAF’s ninemonth re­port, Saroeun on Tues­day said his com­man­ders needed to keep their forces on alert to pre­vent “ill-in­tended peo­ple” from caus­ing “chaos”.

“[We] must in­crease pre­cau­tion in strongly pre­vent­ing ex­trem­ism or any ac­tions that bring chaos in so­ci­ety that causes the de­struc­tion of peace,” Gen­eral Saroeun said in a post to his Face­book page sum­maris­ing his re­marks.

He added that sol­diers must be trained in fight­ing al­ter­na­tive nar­ra­tives be­ing pub­lished on Face­book – a stance that re­calls the Min­istry of In­te­rior’s re­cent train­ing of pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the me­dia on how to por­tray the le­git­i­macy of the CPP’s ac­tions against the CNRP.

De­fence Min­istry spokesman Ch­hum Socheat could not be reached for com­ment on the re­marks.

Yes­ter­day, mean­while, Sar Thet, deputy National Po­lice chief and nephew of In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sar Kheng, told au­thor­i­ties in Kam­pong Speu that per­sons look­ing to in­cite the de­struc­tion of peace must be smashed, point­ing par­tic­u­larly to demon­stra­tions. His com­ments came after a po­lice train­ing ex­er­cise on anti-demon­stra­tion tac­tics.

“Armed forces must have the ca­pa­bil­ity to re­spond to in­ci­dents that take place, and the train­ing forces must help to pre­vent any il­le­gal protests and demon­stra­tions,” he said.

Pho­tos of the train­ing showed, among other things, heav­ily armed au­thor­i­ties ar­rest­ing mock pro­test­ers at gun­point.

The lat­est re­marks follow months of sim­i­lar state­ments made by De­fence Min­is­ter Tea Bahn – who promised to “smash the teeth” of op­po­si­tion pro­test­ers – and Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen, who said there would be 100 or 200 bod­ies in the streets if at­tempts were made to change the gov­ern­ment. Both com­ments were made in the run-up to June’s com­mune elec­tions.

The UN Spe­cial Rap­por­teur Rhona Smith, for­eign em­bassies and elec­tion mon­i­tors said at the time the in­tim­i­dat­ing rhetoric made it dif­fi­cult to call the oth­er­wise smooth com­mune elec­tions truly “free and fair”.

“I re­main con­cerned at the at­mos­phere of in­tim­i­da­tion and threats of vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing by high-level of­fi­cials, in the leadup to the elec­tion and in the weeks which have fol­lowed,” Smith said dur­ing a visit to the King­dom in Au­gust.


RCAF Com­man­der-in-Chief Pol Saroeun (cen­tre) chairs a meet­ing with army of­fi­cials on Tues­day.

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