PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened to order the arrest of people expressing critical views about his deployment of troops to the border with Laos earlier this month.
Hun Sen ordered the deployment after reports that Laotian soldiers had entered Cambodian territory in an attempt to stop the construction of a road by military engineers near the border.
Many took to social media following the announcement to suggest that the move was a pre-election strategy on the part of Hun Sen to win votes and boost his popularity.
However, Hun Sen dismissed the claims, saying people who had expressed that view would “be held accountable in front of the law.”
“You cannot presume that an action against an invasion of an outsider is a strategy to gain popularity,” he said. “It is not acceptable. This is a warning to those who express this opinion. If you are in my nation, you will be arrested... and please don’t say that I am a dictator.”
His speech came after the arrest of Sourn Serey Ratha, head of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), who criticized the deployment on Facebook last week.
Hun Sen called the comments “an insult” that could not be forgiven, adding that the KPP could face dissolution.
Serey Ratha was charged Monday with three charges, including “inciting military personnel to be disobedient”, “demoralizing military personnel” and “provocation to commit crimes”.
Following the deployment, Hun Sen flew to Vientiane to strike a deal with his Laos counterpart, Thonglun Sisoulith, to withdraw both sides’ forces, which Hun Sen labeled a “huge victory”.
Ly Sophanna, a municipal court spokesman, said the court had already determined that Serey Ratha’s comments “undermined national security”.
Serey Ratha is due to stand trial on August 24.