Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of the military, said his forces were “absolutely loyal” to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family on Sunday at an event marking seven years since Mr. Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit was formed as a distinct entity from Brigade 70.
Mr. Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit has been under the prime minister’s direct control since its creation in 1995, but a directive in September 2009 moved it out of Brigade 70. Its members are among the best trained and equipped units in the armed forces.
At a ceremony at the unit’s headquarters in Kandal province’s Takhmao City to celebrate the occasion, General Saroeun, who Mr. Hun Sen made commander-in-chief also in 2009, said the army was “100 percent” committed to protecting the first family.
“The army is absolutely loyal to, and protects, Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen] and Samdech [Bun Rany] and their family, 100 percent,” the commander-in-chief said. “Second, we will absolutely prevent a color revolution from happening in Cambodia.”
Top military leaders, most of whom are also senior CPP officials, have long tended to qualify their pledges of loyalty to Mr. Hun Sen by saying it was based on his status as the elected prime minister—and not due to personal loyalties.
Hing Bun Heang, commander of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit, stuck to that line in his speech, insisting that the unit was loyal to Mr. Hun Sen because he is the current premier.
“The bodyguard unit has the duty to protect the safety of the government’s top leaders and institutions and follow the policies of the legal government that was created by the election,” General Bun Heang said, adding that the unit also had a humanitarian element.
“Anywhere that has floods or storms, that place will have the bodyguard unit who has a duty as an arm of the Cambodian Red Cross and also as an arm of the Ministry of Water Resources.”
Mr. Hun Sen’s elite but secretive bodyguard unit has long been accused of committing human rights abuses. Earlier this year, three of its members were found guilty of assaulting two opposition lawmakers outside the National Assembly.
During a pro-CPP protest announced by Mr. Hun Sen, the bodyguards, wearing plain clothes, repeatedly kicked and stomped on Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea, who suffered serious injuries and were hospitalized for months.