Kem Sokha walks past a portrait of Sam Rainsy, former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, at the party's headquarters in Phnom Penh on Feb. 12, 2017. (Photo: AFP)
The government has lashed out at banned politicians calling on Cambodians to follow the lead of protesters in Myanmar and Thailand by adopting the three-finger Hunger Games salute as courts continue the mass trials of their supporters charged with treason and incitement.
Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) vice-president Mu Sochua took to social media in calling on supporters to use the salute by saying “it is our right and duty” to stand with the people of Myanmar.
She said the three fingers were being raised for ASEAN, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and other countries in the name of “freedom, justice and true democracy.”
But Sok Eysan, spokesman for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), dismissed the call, saying the ruling party had no reason to stage a coup or usurp power from those who have no power.
He said ex-CNRP activists had not given up on their incitement of people to demonstrate again the government, particularly the country’s youth and military, noting their calls were coming from abroad.
“They are calling for the army, the workers and the people to rise. Who has risen? They are not because they support the CPP,” he told the Khmer Times.
CNRP leaders in exile abroad have threatened to return to Cambodia and oust Prime Minister Hun Sen in a popular uprising.
Those threats resulted in a political crackdown on their supporters in Cambodia. Hundreds have been arrested and are before the courts, and any form of protest is now rare.
In the latest hearings, two former CNRP members denied incitement charges in the trial of Sam Rainsy and 65 other ex-CNRP members accused of attempting to overthrow the government between 2018 and 2019.
About 40 people protested outside the court calling for charges to be dropped as the court finished its questioning of CNRP supporters Hy Sochea, 31, and Nov Vichet, 52, who denied charges they were part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government stemming from Sam Rainsy’s plan to return to Cambodia and stage a popular uprising in November 2019.
Deputy prosecutor Seng Heang said that after the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court, Sam Rainsy had formed the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) while in exile in France, an attempt to regroup former CNRP activists to topple Hun Sen’s government.
Among them were former senior CNRP figures including Mu Sochua and Eng Chhai Eang, who appealed to the international community to take action against the Cambodian government by stopping aid and imposing sanctions.
This included a public appeal to soldiers, police and military forces to gather their supporters at the Cambodian-Thai border in Banteay Meanchey province and “rise up.”
The hearings are continuing.