Cambodia’s National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun on Tuesday marked the end of 2019 with a New Year’s message lauding his subordinates for their work cracking down on members of the country’s now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
In a message posted to his Facebook account, Neth Savoeun said police officers under his supervision had carried out fine work targeting activists and former officials linked to the CNRP, which was dissolved by Cambodia’s Supreme Court in November 2017 over allegations of a plot to topple Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
“For the past year, our police officers actively worked hard to provide security, order, and social security in a timely manner to prevent and crackdown on a color revolution-style coup plan orchestrated by treacherous rebels who wanted to destabilize a peaceful Cambodia,” the commissioner wrote.
“Under Hun Sen’s leadership, our police forces have worked with the armed forces, along with local authorities and citizens, to counterattack and undermine this vicious plan.”
The move to dissolve the CNRP was part of a wider crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen on the political opposition, NGOs, and the independent media that paved the way for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.
Since the election, authorities have detained several CNRP activists over allegations of “treason” and restricted or surveilled others, while appearing to turn a blind eye to physical assaults against party supporters by unknown assailants believed to be associated with the CPP.
Pleasing Hun Sen
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday, Khem Roeun, a CNRP activist who fled to Thailand to avoid political persecution, said that Neth Savoeun earns a salary from public taxes and has no right to operate in the interest of Hun Sen exclusively, let alone boast about it.
“This message was posted mostly to please Hun Sen,” he said.
Khem Roeun also questioned whether Cambodia could accurately be considered “peaceful” when many people have found themselves the victims of land grabs and encroachment this year by companies with good connections to the government.
Another activist in Thailand named Suon Chamroeun told RFA that supporters of the CNRP should not be referred to as “traitors,” and that no one associated with the party has been found guilty of corruption, illegal logging or the arbitrary detention of citizens, unlike many members of the CPP, who have relied on government protection to carry out their crimes.
“It is very shameful for the police to claim success by smashing their own citizens,” he said.
“In Cambodia, those who dare to destroy the country and please Hun Sen are the ones who are rewarded.”
Analyst Ly Srey Sros said that a CNRP plan to repatriate acting party president Sam Rainsy to Cambodia from self-imposed exile in November, which was ultimately blocked and sparked a wave of opposition arrests, was “aimed at restoring democracy and was not an attempt at a coup.”
“To date, we have not determined which groups are traitors,” she said, adding that it is wrong of the government to accuse CNRP activists of treason.
Also on Tuesday, CNRP president Kem Sokha, who was detained for treason in September 2017 and is being held under house arrest in Phnom Penh while awaiting a trial set for next month, issued a message to his supporters via Facebook expressing hope for change in the New Year.
“May the new decade change the course of history and lead Cambodia to real peace so that the people can live in harmony,” he wrote.
But analyst Kim Sok told RFA that he does not expect things to improve in Cambodia in 2020 as the government continues to persecute dissidents, while the ongoing political deadlock is likely to lead to sanctions from the international community in response to Hun Sen’s rollbacks on democratic freedoms.
“The political crisis is being provoked by Hun Sen and the CPP,” he said, adding that the situation in Cambodia is “increasingly chaotic.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.