September 22, 2017

Cambodian Officials Ramp Up Anti-US Threats

FILE - Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Cambodian People's Party shows off his ballot paper before voting in local elections at Takhmau polling station in Kandal province, southeast of Phnom Penh, June 4, 2017.

David Boyle Sun Narin VOA News 20 September 2017

PHNOM PENH — Following the closing of independent media outlets and the arrest of Cambodia's opposition leader, officials in Phnom Penh have begun training their verbal fire on the U.S., adding to mounting anxiety in the Cambodian capital among government critics and media workers.

On Friday, senior Cambodian military officials pledged “the elimination” of all foreigners deemed intent to commit aggression against the country, according to statements reported by government mouthpiece Fresh News.

The comments were posted on the same day Prime Minister Hun Sen declared two American "spies" plotting to overthrow his government had been identified and ordered the investigation of all U.S. citizens suspected of conducting espionage.

Warnings to foreigners

In the same speech, he also suggested the U.S. Peace Corps should pull out of Cambodia and the week before he suspended a program to identify and repatriate the remains of U.S. soldiers lost during the Vietnam War.

In statements to the pro-government Fresh News website Friday, Lieutenant General Prum Pheng, Commander of Intervention Brigade 1, and Lieutenant General Bun Seng, a Deputy Commander of the Army and Commander of Military Region 5, vowed to carry out the investigations ordered by Hun Sen.

Fresh News reported the men, both of whom are members of the ruling party’s central committee, had pledged "determination to smash each and every person whose intent it is to make color revolution.”

“We all are the soldiers who have the duty to protect the land. [We] support Samdech Decho [Hun Sen], Prime Minister of Cambodia who rescued Cambodia from the war, to be united to eliminate any invading foreigners,” they reportedly said in identical statements.

Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat defended the right of the lieutenants to issue such threats and would not unconditionally guarantee the safety of foreigners against such actions.

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt gives a press conference at the U.S. Embassy, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sept. 12, 2017

"The situation is normal and the government protects all foreigners unless they did something wrong or against the government," he said. “We welcome all foreigners who come for tourism legally and don’t do any act against the government and national security,” he said, adding that the internal security is normal.

'Disturbing' development

The definition of what constituted an “act against the government” is being interpreted increasingly broadly under vague Cambodian espionage laws, said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

“There’s a disturbing new trend going on in Cambodia and this really started with the Ricketson case, where you had a person from Australia who was charged with espionage despite the fact that they had done no research that we can see that involved anything other than open sources.”

In June, Australian filmmaker James Ricketson was charged with espionage under a provision in the Cambodian Criminal Code that criminalizes receiving or collecting various types of information, objects and technology that “may undermine” national defense “with a view to delivering power to a foreign state or its agents”.

Details about the precise accusation against Ricketson — a vocal critic of the Cambodian government - have not been offered though it is known he faces up to 10 years in prison.

“There’s a new plan to try to intimidate, to threaten and to control foreigners in a much more systematic way,” Robertson said, adding that he believed Cambodians with foreign passports would soon be targeted in the same way.

US officials react

The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the statements directing a reporter back to Ambassador William Heidt’s comments during a press conference last week.

At the time, Heidt said ongoing anti-American rhetoric in Cambodia had made U.S. and other western tourists and companies feel “less welcome,” predicting “many fewer will invest.”

FILE - Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party President Kem Sokha shows off his ballot before voting in local elections in Chak Angre Leu on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 4, 2017.

Lee Morgenbesser, a research fellow at Australia’s Griffith University who studies authoritarian regimes, said U.S. citizens living in Cambodia “should certainly have an exit strategy.”

“The fact several military officials [as well as Hun Sen] have made the same sort of statement suggests the external communication of the CPP government is being internally coordinated,” he said in an email.

“The difference to what has been said in the past is that such statements are being made against the backdrop of a crackdown, which suggests they should not be dismissed. The use of repression in Cambodia is far less predictable than previously.”

Anti-American trend

In the past month, The Cambodia Daily newspaper, which is owned by Americans, has been shuttered over a disputed tax bill, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia has closed its in-country operations citing threats and the National Democratic Institute has been kicked out of the country.

The opposition leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly conspiring with Washington to overthrow the Cambodian government based on a years old video in which he discusses U.S. support for his promotion of grassroots democracy.

Political commentator Meas Nee said support for the current crackdown was far from universal among the cross section of senior military officials he is in contact with, even if they made outward demonstrations of loyalty to the cause.

“They have to express their support although they don’t agree to what has been happening now. Position and wealth are believed to be the key factors where [by] they must support,” he said.


KhmerBTB said...

You all picked a stupid person to lead the way , now he is being stupid and you all have to act stupid too in order to get along with him .

Bong Song said...

This coward is running scared, from the reflection of his actions. Timing is running out for him.

Hemondno Viata said...

ខួរសំដាច់ ហ៊ុន​សែន​ចេះបានស្មើកុងតាក់ បើក ហើយ បិទ ។ សំដាច់ចេះ សើច ហើយនឹង យំ
សន្យាខ្យល់ ចេះរក្សាបានដើមឈើអុះខ្លះសងខាងផ្លូវថ្នល់ ចេះកុហក់នឹងកាត់ក្បាលខ្លួនឯងចោល ចេះស៊ីជោរ ចេះបំផ្លាញបរិស្ថាន ចេះស្នៀតងងិត ចេះពុករលួយ លួចបំផ្លាញជាតិ ចេះគំរាមខ្មែរអ្នកការពារ
ជាតិ ចេះស្រែកគំរាមសំញ៉ែងនៅចំពោះមុខសិស្ស ក្នុងពិធីទទួលបានសញ្ញាប័ត្តិ ចេះខ្លាច ចេះព្រួយ ចេះ
លាងលុយក្រខ្វក់ បើកជំនួញតូចធំបានពេញប្រទេសទេសដែលកូនខ្មែរមកតាំងនៅ ។ ហើយក៍នឹងដល់
ពេល ខ្ញំសើច ហើយ ខ្ញំយំ ។

sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Ea said...

The dark side of former communist killer start to open their thin veil of fake democratic face now ? . The authoritarian and repressive poor reborn from the same maniac leader Who spook louder to procured peace and stability for Khmer ,now they put a new mask of giant communist to intimidated us by using the same old thirty Khmer rouge trick . This tactic can protruded a heavy fear and worried in this nation . 30 year Khmer have a secure peace by international convention assurance , now we poor Khmer have nothing as shield to protected our freedom .Communist used same style of gruesome hatred tactical to govern and this fearful style will coming to replace the democratic norm created and recognized with hopeful by international world communities . This is a very sad day for citizen Khmer victim of draconian politic, hope or prosperity ,and peaceful lives was evaporate in this thin Cambodia atmosphere . Did srok Khmer became Srok Kmouch again ?

tk said...

I am Khmer-American. I used to visit Cambodia and my sister every year since year 2000. Now my sister passed away and Hun Sen and his stooges are more hostile to American government and Khmer-American alike, I will stop visiting this country completely. I will spend my money in my second choice of destination instead. Cambodia which Cambodian officials called it's kingdom of wonder is not a kingdom of wonder, it is a hell. It's dirty country, very corrupted, congested, polluted with no fresh air to breath. Since Hun Sen tends to think that Americans are spies we should just take our money and spend somewhere other than Cambodia, a country not worth a visit.

OneKhmer said...

TK this is exactly what Hun Sen want, to stop, Khmer-American, Australia, Canada, France and so forth, from coming to Cambodia caring about Cambodia. To divide us between Khmer inside and outside. They knew CNRP survival depend on mostly Khmer outside. Please reconsider.

By the way, regarding this article, I am confused. This article posted on 20SEPT2017, which is Wednesday. However, the second paragraph, started with "On Friday..." could it be it should has stated "On Friday, DDMMYYYY,??? this is more precise. Or I am confused.

Kim Ea said...

If Hun Sen hate America that much , why he sent their son to study in this hatred country ? why not China ? Did this is a real pinhead ?

Chun Sokha said...

I have been to Cambodia 4 times to visit my brother and sister but I stopped going there since 2013 because I dislike Hun Sen's government but it has nothing to do between me and CNRP . I have been supporting them in financial before every election and I will keep doing it as long as they are there . They are my only hope in rescuing the people from a Tyrant right now .

ompil kjey said...

The face of a puppet, made in Vietnam.