Cambodia’s Hun Sen orders troops to border regions to hunt down drones

Vietnam denies it sent drones and critics see move as attempt to rally voters ahead of July 23 election.
By RFA Khmer
Cambodia’s Hun Sen orders troops to border regions to hunt down drones Hun Sen's elite troops prepare to deploy in provinces near the Vietnam border following claims that drones from Vietnam violated Cambodian airspace.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered 500 troops and 200 anti-aircraft weapons systems to four northeastern provinces to hunt down drones that allegedly violated the country’s airspace.

He said aircraft are believed to be operated by “ethnic insurgents” in Vietnam, but Vietnamese authorities have denied that the drones were theirs.

“We urge those countries that allow drones to use their countries to violate Cambodia to immediately halt their actions,” he said. “It is an act of terrorism against Cambodia.”

Hun Sen urged calm in a pre-recorded address released via ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, mouthpiece FreshNews. The residents of Kratie, Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri and Tboung Khmum provinces have no reason to fear an impending conflict, he said.

“Don't worry about war in Cambodia – our troops … are intervention troops to help local authorities due to repeated violations by drones we don't know the source of yet,” he said.

The prime minister said that the military assets being sent to the four provinces will be there “not only to destroy drones, but also to search for those who fled from Vietnam to hide in Cambodia,” without providing further details.

On June 11, attacks on two commune offices in central Vietnam’s Dak Lak province – across the border from eastern Cambodia – left nine people dead. Last week, Vietnamese authorities said they will prosecute 84 people accused of being involved in the attacks. No one has claimed responsibility for them, and the motivation remains unclear.

Rallying voters

Members of Cambodia’s opposition said they believe Hun Sen – who has been in power since 1985 – is using the development to scare voters into throwing their support behind the ruling CPP ahead of a general election on July 23. He has used similar tactics in the past.

"Before the 2011 elections, there were skirmishes between Cambodia and Thailand, and in 2016 there was a border dispute with Laos, and [the government] deployed troops as the elections approached," said Morn Phally, an activist with the Cambodia National Rescue Party living in exile in Malaysia.

Hun Sen's elite troops prepare to deploy in provinces near Vietnam following Hun Sen’s claims that drones from Vietnam violated Cambodian airspace. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday assured residents of four provinces that their security is not at risk after ordering 500 troops stationed there to hunt down drones that allegedly violated the country’s airspace. Credit: Facebook/@HunManyCambodia

Hun Sen has frequently invoked the specter of threats to national security during speeches in the lead up to ballots, and framed the vote as a referendum on which party can best maintain Cambodia’s sovereignty.

Speaking to RFA on Tuesday, Finland-based political analyst Kim Sok questioned why Hun Sen was deploying troops to the border when Vietnam has denied involvement in the drone incursions.

“Hun Sen is using this strategy to intimidate people and control power,” he said.

Tuesday’s troop deployment follows the unanimous approval by Cambodia’s National Assembly of an amendment to the election law that prohibits those who don’t vote in next month’s elections from running for office in future elections.

Analysts say the change appears to be aimed at preventing a large-scale boycott of the July 23 vote by supporters of the main opposition Candlelight Party.

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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JB Budanov
Jun 28, 2023 07:12 PM

Why would PM Hun Sen send troops to Cambodia's border with Vietnam after the Vietnamese gov't denied any involvement? It would not be surprising for HS to pull that sort of stunt to attract votes, since many Khmer people harbor ill-will toward Vietnam.
Two other considerations remain:

(1). A specific ethnic group was originally blamed for the drone activities, but it wasn't stated if it is recon-related, or bomb related;
Hanoi would not lay claim to having any involvement with a specific ethnic groups activities at Cambodia's border. And land
disputes are nothing knew between Cambodia and Vietnam;

(2). Mr. Kim Sok inquired as to why we should believe Hun Sen, if Hanoi denies drone activities originating from its borders. I fail to see why the gov't Hanoi's claims should be considered more trustworthy than Hun Sen's if all parties fail to provide a thread of e evidence? A simple photo, or video clip? There's no shortage of smart-phones in on either side of the border as I recall. And why would Hanoi NOT deny such activities?

Finland and Russia share a border, so adopting a more cynical analytical view is required.