Ministry of Defense – Radio Free Asia

Acting Chairman of the National Rescue Party of Cambodia (CNRP) Sam Rainsy will be arrested by the military after setting foot inside Cambodia, Defense Minister Tea Banh said on Tuesday, urging the leader of the opposition in exile to call on the security forces to “light their guns” their superiors in revolt.

Last week, the CNRP announced that Sam Rainsy and several other senior party officials would return from exile to Cambodia on November 9 to coincide with the 66th anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France, despite threats from Prime Minister Hun Sen to imprison them.

Sam Rainsy recently pledged to lead two million Cambodian migrant workers working in Thailand, South Korea, Japan and other countries when he returns from exile to lead what he says is a restoration of the democracy in the authoritarian nation of Southeast Asia.

Late Tuesday, Tea Banh told RFA’s Khmer service in an interview that he had already ordered soldiers across Cambodia to prepare for Sam Rainsy’s return and arrest him “on his arrival” next month.

“We will not allow Sam Rainsy to cause a chaotic situation in the country,” he said, adding that “the soldiers stationed at the borders will handcuff him” as soon as he tries to enter Cambodia.

“We will take him to jail. We must protect the country. We will not allow him to destroy it.

Sam Rainsy left Cambodia in late 2015 to avoid what are considered politically motivated convictions for libel and other charges, but continued to actively lead the CNRP in exile.

In early June, he announced that he had agreed to return to the country by September, but returned last week, claiming his announcement was aimed at “misleading” Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in power.

On Tuesday, Sam Rainsy urged the military to ignore Tea Banh’s orders and “stand up to the regime” to save Cambodian democracy.

“I believe the military will turn their guns on the dictator and his group,” Sam Rainsy said.

“It is a historic chance for Cambodians to revolt against the dictatorship.”

Authorities arrested CNRP chairman Kem Sokha in September 2017, and Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 of its elected officials from politics two months later for his alleged role in a conspiracy to overthrow the government.

These measures were part of a wider crackdown by Hun Sen against the political opposition, NGOs and independent media that paved the way for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win the 125 seats in parliament in the country’s general elections in July 2018.

Speaking to RFA on Wednesday, political analyst Kim Sok noted that the Cambodian military cannot arrest Sam Rainsy because only the country’s judicial police can execute a court order, and suggested that the minister’s comment Defense was meant to be a show of force.

“Tea Banh wants to let it be known that Hun Sen has been preparing his troops for a long time,” he said.

Tea Banh’s statement came after CPP spokesman Sok Ey San told RFA he did not believe Sam Rainsy would return to Cambodia on November 9, calling the opposition leader “cowardly.” and chicken ”and threatening to arrest anyone accompanying him to his house.

CNRP arrest

Meanwhile, Cambodian authorities first invoked the 2017 Supreme Court ruling to arrest a former CNRP official in Kampot province, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), who requested his release Monday.

Authorities arrested 63-year-old Nuth Pich on August 17 for allegedly disobeying a court ruling that dissolved the CNRP after he helped organize rallies of former elected officials and party activists for Khmer noodle meals in April and May.

Nuth Pich went into hiding on May 17 after the Kampot Provincial Court issued an arrest warrant for him, but he emerged from his hiding place in early August and returned home, mistakenly believing he was safe. to do so, and was promptly arrested and charged with discrediting court decisions, inciting criminal acts and inciting discrimination.

In Charge Nuth Pich, the court said it was acting on the basis of the Supreme Court ruling that dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 party leaders from formally participating in political activities for five years.

On Monday, HRW called on Cambodian authorities to “drop all political charges” against Nuth Pich and “release him unconditionally”.

“The Cambodian authorities have embarked on contortions to find charges against Nuth Pich, who has only exercised his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at HRW.

“This is just the latest act of baseless harassment against a former member of an opposition party.”

Repression in progress

Since the start of 2019, authorities have summoned more than 147 CNRP members and supporters across the country for questioning, HRW noted, calling on the governments concerned to demand “the immediate and unconditional release of former opposition members and activists. arbitrarily detained ”.

“The Cambodian government’s crackdown on opposition parties did not end with the Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve the CNRP, but only got worse,” said Robertson.

“The appalling silence of the EU, US and other foreign donors whenever a former CNRP leader is arrested should end now. “

Speaking in response to HRW’s statement, Justice Department spokesman Chin Malin told RFA that the charges against Nuth Pich were based on law.

“Whenever action is taken against former CNRP activists, HRW always claims it is politically motivated,” he said.

“However, our authorities are only enforcing the law.”

Nuth Pich’s son Sun Theany told RFA on Wednesday that guards working for the Kampot Provincial Court recently allowed him to see his father for the first time since his arrest.

Sun Theany said his father’s hair had been cut short and his health was deteriorating due to the cramped quarters he was being held in, adding that he had asked Nuth Pich’s lawyer to seek bail .

Reported by the Khmer service of RFA. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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