Analysts and political observers have decried a recent announcement by leading military figure General Kun Kim in which he said that the military would ensure the arrests of prominent members of the opposition.
In a video published in local media, Kim, who is deputy commander-in-chief and a permanent member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s central committee, said that the military’s job, while remaining officially neural, was to protect government interests and prevent attempts to change the government.
“Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha must abide by the law because I am the law enforcer. The armed forces protect the government. If there was an order, I would enforce [the order] and defend [the government]. I must take action if the court requests. Our armed forces will ensure their arrest to face legal punishment. We must do it no matter how much it would cost”, he said in the video.
Ou Virak, head of the Future Forum think tank, said it was illegal for a government to command the armed forces to act against civilians.
“It’s dangerous for Cambodia when officials keep seeing the shadow of a color revolution,” he said, referring to the government’s belief that opposition forces are planning a coup d’etat.
Meas Ny, a social analyst, said Ki’s remarks showed that the military was firmly in support of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Regarding the arrests, the army must not show up because it is an armed confrontation. Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy would be unarmed. Thus, it’s not necessary to bring armed soldiers and tanks to arrest them,” he said.
Kim could not be reached for comment.
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, called for a peaceful resolution to the stand-off.
“The problem is a political problem and this problem is that the immunity of members of parliament has been violated,” he said.
Rainsy went into self-imposed exile in France in November to avoid a two-year prison term for defamation. He is now facing a new charge related to comments he made that linked Hun Sen to the murder of popular government critic Kem Ley.
Sokha has missed several court appearances since proceedings were initiated against him over an alleged affair he had with a mistress.
On Wednesday, several military helicopters were seen repeatedly circling over the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh in an apparent show of strength.