Hun Sen accuses another overseas group of ‘act of treachery’ as country starts gearing up for July 23 elections
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at a press conference during the EU-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels on Dec. 14, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
Prime Minister Hun Sen has claimed that another group of overseas Cambodians is hatching a plot to oust his government and “bring about the destruction of the nation” as this country’s extensive security network starts gearing up for the July 23 elections.
Hun Sen said on Telegram that he had intercepted a Zoom video meeting on April 30 which revealed that about 20 people planned to disguise themselves as a “civilian group” and return to Cambodia after the ballot and dispute the results.
“Do not forget that the people who stay with you are also my men. It is difficult for you to visit your homeland because you are considered an extremist group who seeks to bring about the destruction of the nation,” he said, according to a translation by the Phnom Penh Post.
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“How long do you intend to try to destroy Cambodia? You say you want democracy, but oppose the election and indeed are already prepared to declare opposition to the election results,” he said.
The pro-government Khmer Times described the plot as an “Act of Treachery” saying the Prime Minister noted he “had embedded people to monitor the situation in such civil society organizations to report on the status and activities of all these anti-government groups.”
Last week, Hun Sen warned Sorn Dara, a popular host of an online television program based in France, that he would sack members of his family who work in the government and support the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) if he continues to criticize his leadership ahead of the election.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng has said at least 100,000 security personnel and a further 20,000 village security guards will be deployed across the country to “ensure public order” and the safe delivery of ballot boxes on polling day.
Those security forces will be derived from the ranks of the National Police, Military Police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and many have already been deployed for the South East Asian Games which begin here on May 5.
Only Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP is in a position to win the election and party insiders have said they expect to collect 92 percent of the 125 seats to be contested in the National Assembly.
That follows a 2017 ban on the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) amid a crackdown on dissent and the jailing of CPP critics for treason amid claims of a United States-backed plot to oust Hun Sen through a color revolution.
The Candlelight Party, formed out of the remnants of the CNRP, is the only other political outfit capable of winning any seats. However, the party is struggling with supporters facing the courts for fraud and incitement amid claims of harassment by the ruling party.
On April 24, New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report detailing acts of violence against opposition politicians and their supporters in recent months, including three instances after a Candlelight Party meeting in Phnom Penh on March 18.
Another four cases were reported after a March 20 visit by party activists to the United Nations human rights office in Phnom Penh and a gathering calling for the release of more than 100 political prisoners.
Last Friday, April 28, Thach Setha, a Candlelight Party vice-president, was charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with “incitement” in addition to a previous indictment for embezzlement. He faces a prison term of six months to three years.
Some opposition activists have defected to the CPP upon release from prison including former CNRP activists Hun Kosal and Yim Sinorn.
Another former CNRP activist Ear Channa has indicated he might join them after expressing “his deep thanks” to Hun Sen for securing his release on bail. He was charged in March last year with conspiracy to commit a crime.
According to the Khmer Times, Ear Channa apologized to Hun Sen for his past mistakes, and on Monday he formally asked the Minister of Justice to grant him bail.
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