Some 2,000 soldiers who participated in the 25th anniversary of military unit Brigade 70 on Monday were instructed to cooperate with the authorities to act against those accused of plotting a coup to topple the government.
The event was presided over by Minister of National Defence Tea Banh and included a military parade featuring marching soldiers, armoured personnel carriers and armed trucks.
Brigade 70 is an elite military unit that was created in 1994, and formerly included the VIP protection unit for Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Speaking to soldiers at the Brigade 70 headquarters in Phnom Penh, Banh said all commanders, deputy commanders and soldiers must cooperate with the authorities at all levels to take measures against Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and his coup plotters.
Rainsy, who is living abroad to avoid a slew of court cases and convictions, has repeatedly said he will return to the Kingdom on November 9.
Last month he appealed on Facebook to members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the public to support his return to the Kingdom, in a movement that has come to be known as his “nine fingers” campaign.
Rainsy also called his return a movement to save Cambodian democracy and said the CNRP had prepared a budget for soldiers who defected from Hun Sen’s government on his return.
However, the government has stressed that Rainsy’s comments tantamount to treason and staging a coup through inciting the public and armed forces to revolt.
“The movement of the treasonous rebels led by convict Sam Rainsy and his accomplices, who have foreigners backing them, have not abandoned their ambition to cause insecurity in the Kingdom.
“So all soldiers of Brigade 70 have a duty to ensure the security and safety of our citizens,” Banh said at Monday’s ceremony.
While not present, Hun Sen also provided a message for the ceremony, in which he lauded the 25th anniversary of the creation of Brigade 70 and also showed concern over the current insecurity caused by geopolitical tensions.
The prime minister said any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Cambodia and orchestrate a “colour revolution” would only result in the government and the armed forces increasing their vigilance.
“Together, a fragile situation is being caused by developments on the international stage involving geopolitics and economic competition between the superpowers.
“And there are attempts to interfere in [Cambodia’s] internal affairs, attempts at a colour revolution, and threats to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity [of Cambodia], as well as treasonous ambitions,” his statement said.
Also speaking at the event was Brigade 70 commander Lieutenant General Mao Sophan. He said the RCAF is committed to destroying a colour revolution and fighting against any outside interference in Cambodia.
Sophan vowed to “destroy all conspiracies and attempts to destroy peace, colour revolutions on Cambodian territory, and fight against any interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs by outsiders”.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Hun Sen’s and Sophan’s remarks were a reiteration of the important role of the military in Cambodia.
“The armed forces are the tool of the government in order to protect security and public order, as well as protect the security of citizens. It is the obligation of the RCAF.
“And this is a shared concern because there is interference, so the RCAF must be ready to resist outside influence for the sake of peace and stability,” he said.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath considered remarks made at the ceremony to be inflammatory and will only result in the political situation becoming tenser.
“The remarks and new strategies of Sam Rainsy and his group are making the government worried. No foreigner, nor the international community, has the intention to interfere in the internal affairs of Cambodia. They only want Cambodia to respect democracy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Koy Sao on Friday decided to detain four Rainsy return plotters in connection with participating in the attempt to topple the government.
Four separate detention warrants, obtained by The Post on Monday, said Doem Saroeung, Sok Phat, Men Yorn, and Lei Sokhon had all been detained.