Opposition leaders say Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to employ scare tactics to secure his hold on power, especially with the election on the horizon.
This includes fabricating charges in the courts for those Hun Sen deems a threat, Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, told VOA Khmer.
“We think that this is a method and the same trick that he’s done before, over innocent people like Mam Sonando,” Kem Sokha said.
Mam Sonando, the operator of the independent Beehive Radio station, was arrested in July an accused of fomenting an insurrection in Kratie province, charges widely seen as fabricated and lacking evidence. He served eight months before he was released on a suspended sentence and is still under monitoring.
“We think this is mostly a threat,” Kem Sokha said.
And there are other examples, he said.
Hun Sen said in a recent speech that anti-government forces have been training militarily in Thailand and are hiding within the opposition’s ranks.
Anti-government groups have members “hiding in the network of the opposition,” Hun Sen said. “So I wish to send a message to the opposition: that in case there are any arrests, don’t say they are political arrests of members. They are terrorist forces.”
Kem Sokha said such statements are meant to tarnish the opposition, but that they demonstrate concerns over opposition victories in the elections.
“The National Rescue Party has a clear stance, that we solve problems through non-violent means,” he said. “We do not cause revolutions. We do not do coups. We do not make war. And we do not do terrorism at all.”
Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst, said such speeches are aimed at weakening in the opposition and sewing distrust.
Any arrests that would come as a result of such accusations would likely be seen as a “political crackdown over those who criticize the ruling party and the government,” he said.
There is a precedent for such arrests. Some members of the royalist Funcinpec party, following a power-sharing arrangement with Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party, were later accused of association with anti-government groups like the Free Khmer movement or the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. Many were subsequently arrested.