Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Wednesday ordered provincial administration officials and the armed forces to be ready to prevent and intercept all activities by outlawed and (self) exiled groups that attempt to push Cambodia into war and chaos.
While he did not specifically refer to any particular group, it is believed he was referring to former opposition leader and “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy who lives in France.
Rainsy has made a number of provocative statements encouraging rebellion against the government in recent months.
Most recently, on February 5, Rainsy said in a video clip posted on his official Facebook page: “In 2019, we have to take over Cambodia and hand it to the people. This is the story and our goal in history in which we have to join this mission to successfully take over Cambodia and give it to the people.”
Sar Kheng has previously said Rainsy is guilty of inciting people and the armed forces to revolt against the Cambodian government.
Making his remarks at the closing of the Stung Treng provincial administration’s 2018 Review and 2019 Goals Setting meeting on Wednesday, attended by provincial administration officials, police and Military Police, he said authorities needed to continue to strengthen peace and stability to prevent and intercept all the attempts to push Cambodia into war and chaos.
The interior minister also ordered leaders within each unit to ensure that officials and the armed forces under their command respected discipline, internal rules and fulfilled their obligations in accordance with their duties.
“Anti-peace forces are trying to find a way to destroy peace [in Cambodia]. This is a problem, so we should not forget, be unaware, lazy or bored. We need to be responsible and destroy all activities that are aimed at destroying peace,” he said.
He said Rainsy would not be afforded the same welcome he recieved in 2013 – when he arrived back in the Kingdom to compete in that year’s national election following four years of exile – as the current political situation is different.
“Such a welcome as 2013 is not possible. This is what I want to talk about. [Rainsy’s suggested return] aims to destroy security and stability in Cambodia."
“The return is illegal and the gathering of his supporters opposes the law, security and stability, and it also opposes development."
“We all know that if there is no peace, we can do nothing as a nation. This is not only in Cambodia, but all countries of the world. After we have peace, we need to maintain it and this is the important thing,” he said.
He continued that Cambodia is not a perfect country, so the government continues to reform and solve problems the Kingdom faces. But he added that the current situation in Cambodia is the most favourable it has ever been.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, supported Sar Kheng’s order.
“This is a message for our officials to be cautious about support for Sam Rainsy. If people want to welcome [Rainsy back] politically, they violate the law because a political welcome [for Rainsy] damages social stability and opposes the Supreme Court’s verdict, which bans the CNRP from being involved with politics in the first place,” he said.
Political analyst Meas Nee regarded Sar Kheng’s statement as just a political tactic from the interior minister to eradicate the prime minister’s doubts over his loyalty towards him.
He said that this order shows that the government also feels doubtful about the loyalty of its own armed forces.
“Sar Kheng is speaking in order to protect himself . . . in order to avoid suspicion from Samdech Hun Sen and other members,” he said, adding that it is not illegal for people to welcome Rainsy back.