Cambodia’s strong relationship with Vietnam is a bulwark against efforts by the opposition party and members of civil society to topple the Kingdom’s government, Defence Minister Tea Banh declared yesterday.
Speaking to about 1,000 military officials while inaugurating a Vietnamese-funded building at the National Defence University in Phnom Penh, Banh cast regime change “ambitions” by the CNRP and “some NGOs” as a common threat to both countries.
“Despite the government’s strong efforts in the national interest, the opposition party has maintained its ambition to topple the legitimate government by inciting and creating hostility on the border issues between Cambodia and Vietnam,” Banh said, adding such “provocations” concerned both countries.
“A close friendship between Cambodia and Vietnam . . . is a giant obstacle for them.”
During the ceremony, a Vietnamese military official also denounced the CNRP for their inflammatory rhetoric on the border issue, which the party has long been accused of stoking for popular support.
Banh also joined several other high-level government and military officials in characterising the recent “Black Monday” campaign as an attempt to topple the government.
The campaign is an attempt to lobby authorities to release several people imprisoned on charges stemming from an alleged sex scandal surrounding opposition leader Kem Sokha.
Sokha is also facing legal action related to the affair but has so far ignored court summonses, with his party citing his parliamentary immunity. Banh yesterday weighed in on the case.
“I dare not speak instead of the court and prosecutor about [Kem Sokha] appearing to clarify [at the court],” Banh said.“But [if he doesn’t appear] the case will become a real crime, which is not a small matter.”
The CNRP and observers have accused the ruling CPP of using the legal system to mount a crackdown on political opponents and critics as elections approach.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, sent on May 4 and obtained yesterday, the CNRP urges the UN to hold an international conference on Cambodia’s “dangerous” situation.
“We call on the international community to urgently take action to put an end to this attack on democracy,” it says, calling for signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements to properly enforce the treaty, which paved the way for Cambodia’s 1993 elections and stipulated that human rights be protected.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday rejected accusations of a “political crackdown” while also dismissing the CNRP’s appeal to the UN, which he said was designed to “stop wars”, not to meddle in countries’ internal affairs.