Military Reaffirms Loyalty After Rainsy’s Mutiny Appeal

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Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a 20-year anniversary event of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces on January 24, 2019. (Hun Sen’s Facebook page)

Cambodia’s armed forces will continue to support Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, the Defense Ministry said, after former opposition leader Sam Rainsy issued a public appeal to the military to “follow the model of the armed forces in Algeria” and join with the people to topple a dictatorship.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned on April 2 after 20 years in power following mass protests that led the military to withdraw support from him.

The statement from Cambodia’s Defense Ministry on April 4 did not refer directly to Rainsy’s appeal, which was posted on Facebook, but noted that some people had used the recent upheaval in Algeria in an attempt to undermine Hun Sen’s rule.

The statement said Cambodia’s military remained committed to defending Hun Sen’s government, which won 125 out of 125 National Assembly seats at last year’s national election after the forced dissolution of the opposition.

It also called on Cambodian “to have trust in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and not be tricked by the deceitful group” and to help defend the government.

Rainsy, who has assumed the title of “acting leader” of the forcibly dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party while his successor, Kem Sokha, remains under house arrest in Phnom Penh, posted his appeal to the military in a video that showed recent photos of the Algerian protests and also the military.

“Cambodia’s armed forces must follow the model of the armed forces in Algeria, ending support for the dictator Hun Sen and instead turn to support the Cambodian people who want to eliminate the dictatorship like in Algeria,” Rainsy said.

Ly Srey Sros, a political analyst, said such rhetoric worried her, and called for both the government and the banned opposition to negotiate to find a way to restore democracy without such drastic measures.

“If the government can follow through on the requests made by the European Union, the government will also get the applause from the people for its humility in finding solutions when the country faces problems,” Srey Sros said.

The E.U. in February started a review process that could lead to the suspension of Cambodia’s tariff-free access to Europe’s lucrative markets unless the government moves to restore the respect for rights and democratic processes in Cambodia.

Earlier this month, nearly 70 civil society groups said the introduction of tariffs would cause a negative impact on the livelihoods of Cambodians as well as the country’s general development and called for the government to act to rectify the situation to bring the country in line with its international rights obligations.

Business leaders have raised similar concerns about the uncertainty but Hun Sen has said he is committed to protecting Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty and does not plan to accede to demands on his government made by foreigners.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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