Cambodia’s prime minister has threatened to deploy the military if leaders of the disbanded opposition party return from exile next month. Saying he would regard their return as an attempted coup d’etat.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the arrests of at least 30 opposition activists in Cambodia this year. Accusing them of plotting to overthrow his government. Sam Rainsy, the founder of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party plans to return from self-exile, in November.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Rainsy’s return would be an incursion by forces seeking to overthrow his government.
Rainsy has called for an uprising against the longtime leader. Hun Sen said that if opposition leaders and supporters returned, such declarations would mean that “the army must begin to deploy and use weapons of all kinds.”
“Attack wherever they are seen, there is no need to wait for an arrest warrant or not,” he said. “Supporters are arrested whenever they are seen.”
Rainsy’s Return from Self-Exile
Last year, Hun Sen extended his rule of more than three decades in an election in which his ruling party won all the seats in parliament.
The CNRP had been disbanded months before the election by the Supreme Court. Following the 2017 arrest of party leader Kem Sokha.
Rainsy said on Monday it was legitimate to seek to topple his government. Saying the CNRP had been dissolved and Hun Sen was not prepared to hold free and fair elections in the future.
“Popular uprising is the only option left to Cambodians to bring about a democratic change,” Rainsy told Reuters.
Rainsy has said he will return to Cambodia in November following four years of self-exile. Four years ago Rainsy was convicted for criminal defamation. He was also ordered to pay $1 million in compensation.
He also faces a five-year prison sentence in a separate case.
Rainsy said that he would reconsider his return and his call for a popular uprising if Hun Sen released Kem Sokha.
Sokha has been detained for two years – the past year under house arrest. – He’s awaiting trial on charges of plotting to overthrow Hun Sen’s government.