Defying threat of sanctions, Cambodia calls on military to CRUSH OPPOSITION
Cambodia’s defence minister has vowed to destroy an alleged “colour revolution”, while shrugging off the looming threat of international sanctions against the Hun Sen administration for its crackdown on the opposition.
“Some people worry once they heard about the sanctions and others seem to be scared. I am not scared at all and not even a single hair moves [in response],” Defence Minister Tea Banh said on Sunday.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha remains in jail after being arrested on September 3 and charged with treason over an alleged plot to foment a “colour” revolution to overthrow the government. His opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) is now threatened with dissolution by the supreme court, which will offer its ruling in two weeks’ time.
The crackdown on the opposition has triggered calls for targeted sanction’s against government officials, including visa bans and a freezing of assets abroad
Last week, United States Republican Senator Ted Cruz called for a travel ban on certain government officials if Sokha is not released from prison by November 9.
A defiant Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Friday he was “unconcerned” by the threat of sanctions.
“He doesn’t have wealth abroad and there is no necessity for him to step on US soil,” said Hun Sen’s spokesman.
Political commentator Meas Nee said Defence Minister Banh’s comments, while appearing to convey resolve, betrayed the ruling party’s real concerns – that it must do all it can to hold on to power, for which it may face punishment.
The opposition CNRP made huge gains in the 2013 general election and in local elections last June. Observers say Hun Sen is now cracking down to ensure that the opposition doesn’t gain any further ground ahead of next year’s general election.
“They are not sure whether they’ll be able to win [the elections],” said Meas Nee. “So they are trying to undermine the opposition party, and must take all the consequences.”
These, he said, may include freezing assets – a “big concern” for government officials, many of whom have investments abroad.
In his speech to troops, the defence minister called for the military to suppress an alleged colour revolution “until 2018 or the end of 2018”, or else the country would descend into chaos. He added that soldiers did not need advance permission from superiors to smash protests.
“We need to immediately … crush the movement demanding Kem Sokha’s release,” he said. “In a few more days, there will be a dramatic change,” Banh said. Today is the last day for the CNRP to submit evidence to the Supreme Court in the case. Also speaking to the brigade, Military Region 1 Commander Huot Chheang called on troops to counter any “rebellious” elements.
Yoeurng Sotheara, legal and monitoring officer with election monitor Comfrel, questioned the military’s right to treat all protesters as threats.
“Authorities have nothing to question here,” he said. “Their role does not include cracking down on protests ... It is, in fact, to facilitate [peaceful demonstrations].”
Opposition deputy leader Mu Sochua will visit the United Kingdom next month to urge it to impose targeted sanctions on Cambodia, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reports. Britain is among the biggest trading partners for the country, importing about $1 billion worth of Cambodia-made goods annually. Sochua will also visit Germany and Italy next month.
Western nations have however been slow to act for fear of angering China, which has invested heavily in Cambodia.
Sochua fled Cambodia earlier this month after being denounced by Hun Sen as an “urban terrorist”.
“AUTHORITIES HAVE NOTHING TO QUESTION HERE. THEIR ROLE DOES NOT INCLUDE CRACKING DOWN ON PROTESTS ... IT IS, IN FACT, TO FACILITATE [PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATIONS].”
Yoeurng Sotheara of election monitor Comfrel