Interior Minister Sar Kheng said local officials have been asked to increase security measures during the upcoming Independence Day and Water Festival holidays, in light of opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s expected return on November 9.
Sam Rainsy announced he will return on November 9, the day Cambodia celebrates Independence Day, ending his years-long exile. The government has since arrested dozens of people, allegedly assisting in the return, by characterizing it as an attempt to topple the government.
In a letter dated November 30, the interior minister instructed provincial and sub-national officials to increase security measures across the country, even asking the military to deploy personnel and authorized the use of force as per the situation.
“This is to instruct municipal, city and district commissioners to work with the police and commune administration to strengthen cooperation and to control people's movements,” the letter reads.
The minister also ordered the monitoring of people at the village level and asked officials to educate them to stay away from any anti-government activities.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said the directive was needed to ensure that no untoward event occurred on November 9.
“For example, if their communes have strange people or groups that hide their activities, the police have to be aware,” he told VOA Khmer.
He said it was likely Sam Rainsy would incite people to act on that day, though he did not elaborate how this would be done, but added that officials would be alert to any such development.
Khieu Sopheak refused to give police deployment figures for the country, but said there would be around 5,000 personnel in Phnom Penh for both holidays. On Tuesday, Khieu Sopheak said that the government was also using phone surveillance to determine Sam Rainsy’s movements.
Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said the directive would only increase fear among people, at a time when political tensions were already very high.
“I have heard that some workers are preparing to apply for permission to return home in provinces due to fears of unrest in the city,” he said.
Sam Rainsy has not revealed how he will return to the country but has called on the international community to assist in a peaceful return.