Defense Minister Banh Calls For Vigilance, Mocks Rainsy

Defense Minister Tea Banh on Thursday presided over the opening of a new office building for the military’s Brigade 70 in Phnom Penh, calling for vigilance in defending the government, before attempting to make fun of opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s getting one million “likes” on Facebook.

General Banh has often called on the military to defend Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government in the aftermath of last year’s disputed national election, and used the opening of the new offices in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune to repeat his message.

“We are to be highly cautious and pay attention to continue our work,” he said. “Don’t let the enemy use tricks to topple the government. Even though Hun Sen is the legitimate prime minister, they use many tricks to make [him] look bad.”

“The infantry of Brigade 70 near Phnom Penh are important to protect the safety of the capital,” he said. Gen. Banh said that even after the July 22 political deal, which saw Mr. Rainsy’s CNRP end street protests over last year’s disputed election, a threat remains from “unhappy” people who may stir up trouble.

“In a developing country, some people are unhappy because… [some people] say nothing is being done, the country is getting poor, such as when they make accusations on a website or talk about lost land in the past or corruption and then finally they make a public forum,” Gen. Banh explained.

The Defense Minister then took aim at a press conference held by Mr. Rainsy on Tuesday to celebrate receiving “likes” from one million Facebook users.

Gen. Banh said that the one million “likes” received by Mr. Rainsy had been placed on separate posts on the page, not the page itself.

“It’s like the Facebook posts being ‘liked’ until more than one million,” he said. “Usually when they post, people just click like, and then only one person will click like many times and make the problem seem really big compared to others.”

In fact, Mr. Rainsy was on Tuesday celebrating receiving one million likes for his Facebook page itself. Each individual Facebook account can only “like” a page a single time.

Gen. Banh also hit back at complaints about the widespread use of military license plates on Cambodia’s roads.

“There are not many Royal Cambodian Armed Forces number plates or police number plates,” he said. “Which brand of glasses are you wearing, and why do you like to accuse everybody of making anarchy?”

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