Backtracking from a warning made Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday asked the courts to consider dropping an arrest warrant against Thailand-based political analyst Seng Sary, saying he now understands the analyst’s comments as acceptable.
Launching children’s vaccinations on Friday, Hun Sen said the courts had already issued a warrant for the arrest of a Bangkok-based academic, without naming the scholar. The warrant was because the academic had purportedly spoken in favor of the country’s outlawed opposition forming a government in exile abroad, similar to Myanmar after its coup, raising six principles for such an action.
“As I have already revealed, there is an arrest warrant. Bring him in for questioning [about] the six points as a condition for forming a government abroad. You encouraged its creation,” Hun Sen said on Friday, adding that authorities would not tolerate such an opposition movement.
“Not just imprison what is called the rebel movement, they will shoot. When they see, they will shoot. It is not a right to expression. Please clarify the matter of a political framework, an armed movement, because they follow the Burmese way.”
But three days later, Hun Sen posted a message on Facebook that he had listened carefully to analyst Seng Sary’s words and understood the situation differently.
Sary had given a “scenario analysis” on July 21 to talk through six different scenarios, and such work was reasonable and acceptable, Hun Sen said.
“As head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I call on the court to consider stopping the arrest warrant for Dr. Seng Sary,” he said. “In the meantime, I would also like to encourage Dr. Seng Sary to continue his research and analysis of social issues for the benefit of social science research.”
Hun Sen also said in his message that Sary’s wife, children and parents need not worry about the situation.
Sary told VOD on Friday that Hun Sen seemed to be confused over Sary’s ideas. He was not advocating the creation of a government in exile against Hun Sen’s government, but was simply analyzing possible scenarios, Sary said.
He had raised six conditions that could be the basis for forming a government in exile, he said. The accusations against him by the prime minister could be the result of Hun Sen receiving untrue information from someone, he added.
“This is my understanding. It is my analysis and not an intention against the samdech prime minister,” Sary said.
Analyst Kim Sok, living in exile in Europe, on Friday criticized the arrest threat.
“Cambodia’s situation at the moment is Hun Sen’s way of democracy, where only Hun Sen can say whatever he wants, and political and social advocacy forces are under serious danger if they cannot find a way to work together,” Sok said.
Soeng Senkaruna, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, said critical voices were vital for democracy, and the government could balance opposing views through its own messaging rather than arresting critics.
“In democratic society, it is really necessary to guarantee the freedom of expression from all tendencies … in order to participate in building society.”