De­fy­ing threat of sanc­tions, Cam­bo­dia calls on mil­i­tary to CRUSH OP­PO­SI­TION

The Nation - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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

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