Search underway for posters of ‘unity government’ claims

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Sam Rainsy’s Facebook post endorsing the idea of heading an ‘national unity government’ with interior minister Sar Kheng (left). FACEBOOK

The Ministry of Interior is searching for those responsible for posting false claims to Facebook that its minister Sar Kheng met with former opposition party leader Sam Rainsy and decided to “form an interim government” during his recent 14-day trip to France on private business.

In an audio message on August 29 along with a screenshot of one of the offending Facebook accounts, ministry secretary of state and spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the information was false.

“Authorities are searching for the perpetrators in order to hold them accountable before the law, including those who share these falsehoods,” he said.

The screenshot seen by The Post said: “At the meeting between Sar Kheng and Sam Rainsy today, it was decided they will form an interim government, with Sar Kheng in charge of training the army and Sam Rainsy responsible for finding finances.

“And hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Thailand are ready to join the interim government as volunteers to overthrow the dictatorship regime,” it said.

Sopheak said some people shared this information to intentionally mislead people while others shared it for other reasons.

“If there is a combination of offences, it will depend on the court to decide,” he said.

Sopheak told The Post on August 30 that authorities were searching for those responsible in order to arrest them.

While visiting the US on August 29, Rainsy – former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – said the formation of a “National Unity Government” with the participation of Sar Kheng was plausible.

Sar Kheng left Cambodia for France for two weeks from August 22 to September 5 on private business after receiving permission from Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the interior ministry’s notice dated August 22.

Sar Sokha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Sar Kheng’s son, said on August 30 that his father’s trip to France was for a medical examination and there was no meeting of any kind with any political agenda as claimed by some analysts and “a handful of” former CNRP officials.

“The false statements made by these politicians are just fabrications intended to mislead national and international opinion for the benefit of their own political interests and those of their factions.

“In particular, they are sending a message that they want to find a way to negotiate politically with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is contrary to what the government’s leaders as well as the public have seen them do,” he said.

Sokha said the opposition politicians were trying to split the CPP, which he said was impossible due to its “strong internal unity”.

He said these false statements were unethical as they were intended to mislead society and pollute the political environment, in particular by slandering Sar Kheng.

“To the [Cambodian] public: Please don’t believe the claims of selfish politicians who only want power for their faction out of self-interest, regardless of the common national interest,” Sokha said.

He said the older generation of politicians should provide a positive example for the next generation of politicians to learn from and especially to cultivate a true patriotic conscience that avoids manipulation of the youth and the people through demagoguery.

During Sar Kheng’s absence, permanent interior ministry secretary of state Sak Setha serves as acting minister.