A top military official ordered all soldiers last week to return to their camps and hand over their weapons after voting.
The order, which is directed at all soldiers regardless of their political affiliation, does not apply to high-ranking soldiers who already have permission to possess weapons, Meas Sophea, deputy commander in chief in charge of the RCAF Infantry, said Sunday.
“Our country has peace, so soldiers do not need to use weapons,” Meas Sophea said. “Those soldiers have to bring back their weapons to the camp.”
The order to return weapons is a long-standing command which was in effect “a long time ago, but we just wanted to remind them,” Meas Sophea said.
A copy of the order, issued by Ke Kim Yan, four-star general and RCAF commander in chief , states that “all high-ranking and low-ranking soldiers who went to vote have to return quickly to their camps in order to work.”
“All transportation, materials and weapons that those soldiers have brought from the camps—they have to collect and put them back to those camps,” the July 31 order stated.
The commanders of all military camps are required under the order to report the results of collecting the weapons.
“Those soldiers who do not comply with this directive have to be responsible before the law,” Ke Kim Yan stated.
“After they receive this directive, the infantry, navy, air force, military, high-ranking and low- ranking soldiers have to immediately implement [the command],” he said.
Co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said Sunday he had not heard about the directive.
On Saturday, TV5 broadcast an RCAF announcement ordering at least 20 top military officials—including Funcinpec military officials such as RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief Khan Savoeun—to turn over their weapons. The broadcast sparked concerns that Ke Kim Yan’s military directive was targeting royalist military officials.
Meas Sophea, however, denied that this order was specifically targeting Funcinpec military officials, saying that the broadcast also mentioned CPP military officials.
Khan Savoeun said Sunday that he doesn’t have any weapons except a few guns for his personal security. Speaking for other Funcinpec officials, he said, “Funcinpec right now is not the same as before—we only have our hands and don’t have any weapons.”
Khan Savoeun also said he will not return to work in his military capacity until after the National Election Committee announces official election results on Friday.
Khan Savoeun was Funcinpec’s second-ranked candidate in Siem Reap province. Preliminary results show that Funcinpec won just one seat there.
Meanwhile, co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said the military sent about 40 soldiers to Battambang and Stung Treng provinces during the election period to secure the borders along Vietnam and Thailand.
“After the election period, we will take them back to Phnom Penh,” he said Sunday, adding that the troops are the “small” soldiers and not a very large force.
Leang Sreu, the Committee for Free and Fair Election’s chief in Stung Treng province, said Sunday that about 20 soldiers dressed in paramilitary uniforms were seen in Sesan district, Stung Treng.
“The presentation of those soldiers made the people afraid,” he said. “The villagers had never seen those soldiers before.”