Dozens of trucks filled with elite soldiers from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit on Monday night were deployed near the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party headquarters in an apparent show of muscle after the CNRP said it would stage large protests.
The move came after Hun Sen wrote on Facebook that he would rid the country of forces intent on “destroying national security”.
About two hours after the message was published, some 30 military trucks began to patrol the roads near the headquarters, while speedboats fitted with machine guns were dispatched to the Tonle Basaac river, which passes behind the building.
The authorities have indicated that the military may be used to arrest the CNRP’s deputy president, Kem Sokha, who was convicted on Sunday for failing to appear in court in another, ongoing case, and sentenced to five months behind bars.
The opposition, however, said it was unfazed by the apparent act of intimidation, pledging to proceed with its plans for a mass demonstration.
“For two straight days, the opposition party leaders have threatened national stability by organizing a mass demonstration to demand a so-called political solution… there is no political solution or breakthrough for the political parties, because it is the court’s decision and someone who does wrong cannot hold the nation hostage, and the political party, to hide his mistakes,” Hun Sen wrote on Monday.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense said its forces were standing by to carry out orders to prevent large-scale demonstrations.
CNRP lawmaker Cheam Channy said the CPP should not be concerned about the planned demonstration because “the CNRP only has the people’s will and will do it peacefully.”
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, said the planned demonstration was a threat to the ruling party and the government.
“The government has a role and responsibility to maintain peace, stability and social order, so the government must respond,” he said, adding that the CNRP was “threatening” the government. “When [the CNRP] threatens the government with mass demonstrations, the government can also crackdown on protests.”