Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Thursday that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) includes members of at least three separate revolutionary groups aiming to topple his CPP and the country’s monarchy, adding that only he was capable of protecting the King and royal family.
Instructing TV cameras to zoom in on him during a speech at a pagoda in Prey Veng province on Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen held up a series of flags that he said represented three separate rebel forces who have infiltrated the CNRP and are also operating military training camps outside of Cambodia with the intention of bringing down the ruling party and wiping out the country’s monarchy.
As the only person to whom the King granted the honorific of “Techo”—which translates roughly as great commander—in 21st century Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen said that he was the only man in Cambodia capable of stopping these forces from tearing down the current social order.
“[These groups] claim that their target is to overthrow Hun Sen, but the main target is the overthrow of His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni. They have to knock over the CPP and Hun Sen, who are the wall protecting the monarchy, before moving on to the monarchy,” he said.
While one part of the opposition was legitimate, the other part was leading a military movement and wanted to change the country’s flag, Mr. Hun Sen claimed.
With only 10 weeks until July’s national election, the prime minister warned that if opposition politicians were arrested, it would be because of their affiliation to his so-called violent revolutionary groups.
“I would like to inform the opposition party that if there are any arrests of their members, don’t accuse us of arresting the members of political parties. They are actually terrorists,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
The three groups that Mr. Hun Sen said were aiming to topple his government and the monarchy were the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), a nonviolent dissident group based in Thailand with six alleged members currently in Prey Sar prison; the Khmer People’s Power Movement (KPPM), a U.S.-based political organization highly critical of Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP; and a previously unheard of group allegedly based in the U.S. called the Tiger Liberation Movement.
“Another movement, whose members we have arrested with evidence, is the Khmer National Liberation Front, which was created in Thailand and has been deported by the Thai government,” he said.
The KNLF was founded in December and has posted a manifesto online calling for the removal of Mr. Hun Sen from office, but the government has been unable to produce any evidence of violent intentions on the part of the little-known group or any violent capabilities since placing six of their members in detention in April after they were hastily deported from Thailand.
The Washington-based KPPM was founded in the U.S. in 2009 and though they have openly denounced Mr. Hun Sen’s government, they have never threatened violence or espoused any anti-royal sentiments.
Thursday’s speech was not the first time Mr. Hun Sen has implicated the opposition in alleged terrorist plots and activities.
As recently as 2010, Mr. Hun Sen said members of the SRP were part of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), a U.S.-based dissident group that staged a brief but bloody attack on government offices in 2000 that resulted in several deaths—all mostly members of the CFF.
In 2005, SRP lawmaker Chea Channy was imprisoned for creating a so-called shadow defense ministry that Mr. Hun Sen claimed was actually a rebel force meant to overthrow the CPP. National and international human rights groups denounced Mr. Channy’s prosecution by the Military Court as a show trial.
CNRP acting president Kem Sokha said Thursday that Mr. Hun Sen’s warnings of rebel groups and terrorism were a desperate move by the prime minister aimed at discouraging and scaring members and supporters of the opposition party ahead of the election.
“Firstly, it is a threat to the people who are flocking to support the CNRP. Secondly, the CNRP has stated clearly that it supports peace and stability and will never use war or revolution for change,” Mr. Sokha said.
Mr. Hun Sen also lashed out at Prince Sisowath Thomico, the former chief of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s Cabinet, who is now running as a CNRP candidate for the National Assembly in Preah Sihanouk province, stating that the Prince was falsely claiming to represent the late King Father in his political campaigning.
“[Prince Thomico] says he is working on behalf of the Cambodian monarchy, but Prince [Norodom] Ranariddh has sent me a letter rejecting that claim,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“I promise on my life that the King and Queen Mother are not at all involved in these [political] issues. There is only one prince involved in politics and he is going against the King Father’s advice,” Mr. Hun Sen continued.
“Who is Prince Thomico? He is the soldier of Lon Nol. He has no right to speak about protecting the monarchy as Lon Nol overthrew the King Father Norodom Sihanouk and ended Sangkum Reastr Niyum,” he said, referring to the socialist political organization headed by then-head of state Norodom Sihanouk from 1955 until 1970.
“The monarchy does not belong to you [Prince Thomico] but to everyone. His Majesty the King Father said Sangkum Reastr Niyum has died and the CPP is its younger brother,” Mr. Hun Sen continued.
“Though His Majesty the King has granted us many high-level titles, the CPP has never used the monarchy to boost its political campaigns,” he added.
Mr. Hun Sen and Prince Thomico have repeatedly clashed over the past decade, most recently when Prince Thomico said that the CPP’s extravagant ceremonies around the funeral and cremation of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk went against the late King’s will, in which he asked for a simple funeral in order to save the state’s money.
Prince Thomico said Thursday that although the King Father did try to keep the monarchy apolitical, he was also distraught at seeing so many Cambodians lose their land and houses to private companies with close relations to Mr. Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
“[The King Father never supported having people expelled from their land or expelled from their houses. My personal feeling is that I cannot remain out of politics with what is happening to my people,” Prince Thomico said.
Regarding his former service as a soldier in the army of General Lon Nol, Prince Thomico said that many members of the ruling CPP had also served under a regime that ended up seriously damaging the monarchy.
“In the Khmer Rouge era, the King was placed in house arrest and five of [the King Father’s] children and 14 of the royal family members were killed, and members of the CPP were taking part in that regime,” Prince Thomico said.