Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) offers aid to a flood survivor from a speedboat in Banteay Meanchey province on October 21, 2020. (STR / AFP)
Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned supporters of the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) not to stage protests outside the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh this Friday, marking the 29th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords.“I will not tolerate any group that plans to protest on 23 October 2020 in front of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh,” he said while touring the flood-devastated countryside.The accords brought together warring factions, including Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), with an agreement struck that guaranteed democracy and paved the way for UN-backed elections in 1993.However, the CNRP claims Hun Sen has breached that agreement, eschewed Western democratic principles, and aligned the CPP with China, which is now this country’s largest benefactor.
“I know the opposition group, commanded from abroad, has mobilized people from the provinces not from Phnom Penh to protest against the government,” the prime minister said, according to the online portal Fresh News.
The government launched a crackdown ahead of elections in 2018. Independent media closed or was sold to government-friendly interests, the CNRP was dissolved by the courts, and its members have been jailed or fled overseas. The CPP subsequently won every seat contested at the poll.
Protests have since been rare and small, with the authorities rounding up and prosecuting dissenters under charges of incitement with Hun Sen alleging CNRP leader in exile, Sam Rainsy was trying to foment a colour revolution.Last month, from his self-imposed exile in France, Sam Rainsy said he would make a second attempt at entering Cambodia. A similar bid, including promises to lead protests across the country, failed late last year.His party’s leader Kem Sokha, who is technically under house arrest on treason charges, has traveled to the countryside to help the flood-affected, prompting suggestions he would make a return to politics.
Dim Saroeun, a former member of the CNRP provincial council, told the Phnom Penh Post he did not know why the pair were arrested. He said they had not been active in politics or on social media since the CNRP was dissolved in 2017.Hun Sen had also accused Sam Rainsy of supporting the protest movement in Thailand when there were more pressing problems, resulting from record floods and the pandemic.
“Do not create problems during severe flooding and the Covid-19 pandemic or raise the three fingers supporting Thai protesters. You [Rainsy] have been warned over interferences in Thailand’s internal affairs,” said the premier.
“You express solidarity with Thai protestors while we are helping our people in times of emergency,” he added.The three-finger salute has become a symbol of protest by activists demanding political reform.