A ruling-party video linking anti-government protests to destruction caused by the Syrian conflict will not prevent a “color revolution” in Cambodia, a student recently jailed for “incitement” said Monday, urging Prime Minister Hun Sen to instead address the root causes of unrest in the country.
On April 26, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of Cambodia’s Office of the Council of Ministers released an 18-minute video showing footage of the devastation caused by the war in Syria and quoting a young Syrian man who had called for revolution expressing regret at having done so.
The video juxtaposes images of Syria at peace under President Bashar al-Assad with scenes of children killed in the conflict, before launching into speeches by Hun Sen about maintaining peace in Cambodia and suppressing those who would start a “color revolution” aimed at ousting his government.
“Color revolutions” refer to a series of popular movements that used nonviolent protests under colored banners to topple governments in countries of the former Soviet Union during the 2000s.
The end of the video shows Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany dancing at an event, suggesting that only the prime minister can provide stability in Cambodia and that the people should vote for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in local elections slated for June.
In a statement, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the video is meant to inform the public about “the consequences of a color revolution initiated by a political group.”
“As a result, stability has been destroyed—every good thing in society has been annihilated,” he said.
“As seen in the video, the homes and cities were reduced to rubble, thanks to the war and people who resorted to such kind of revolution.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Phay Siphan went on to say that Cambodia “cannot afford to waste time with more wars,” because the country is still trying to recover from the murderous era of the Khmer Rouge regime, which ended with Vietnam’s occupation in 1979.
“In the immediate aftermath of 1979 everyone was poor, but since then the country has developed and now more than 80 percent of the population has been lifted from poverty,” he said.
He suggested that those who are unhappy with the government express themselves through Cambodia’s commune elections next month.
“However, a mass movement which leads to a color revolution is against the rule of law,” he said.
‘Injustice and suffering’
Student activist Kong Raiya, who recently served 18 months in prison for “incitement” after he called on Cambodians to mount a color revolution in a social media post, dismissed the video Monday, saying the government must do more to address the concerns of the people.
He told RFA’s Khmer Service that he is sorry efforts to bring about peaceful change in Syria led to conflict, but said a video will not be enough to stop the people of Cambodia who are fed up with “injustice and suffering” in the country.
“Our justice system needs to be reformed and needs to be independent, and people who commit crimes must be punished while the innocent get fair treatment,” he said.
“The rich and powerful should not receive better treatment than the poor. The government must stop mistreating and suppressing the people and stealing their land. They must stop destroying our natural resources,” he added.
“Unless these things are fully addressed, a color revolution is inevitable.”
In November, Hun Sen called on the military to “absolutely ensure that Cambodia is free from any color revolutions” in a Facebook post, saying they would “harm people’s happiness and peace in Cambodia.”
“The armed forces shall protect the legitimate government,” he wrote.
Reported by Maly Leng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.