Cambodian armed forces have been deployed along the country’s border areas in the days ahead of the promised return of exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy and other senior party leaders, a government spokesman said on Monday.
“We know already [of] the announcement of Sam Rainsy to lead forces to overthrow the Royal Government, which was elected in an election, so this is the response,” Phay Siphan said.
Asked whether he was concerned about possible violent clashes if the opposition returns on Nov. 9, Phay Siphan said “what the military wants is cooperation; we will only take fugitives who have been charged by the court to face charges in court.”
However, “if there is any resistance against making arrests, we will respond,” he said.
Senior leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was dissolved in 2017, have vowed to attempt to return to the country on Nov. 9. The government has called the planned return a coup attempt, though the opposition has maintained that their intentions are nonviolent.
In a video posted to Facebook on Monday, Rainsy appealed to the armed forces to disobey orders if Prime Minister Hun Sen asked them to shoot innocent people.
In return, those officers will be rewarded with rising salaries and promotions if there is a change of government, Rainsy said.
“I appeal again to the armed forces, who are siblings and nephews: Don’t mistreat your citizens, and instead, please, come out and defend the innocent people,” Rainsy said. “Please, brothers, children, nephews, don’t side with the dictator.”
“The CNRP, including me, Sam Rainsy, would like to guarantee that any armed forces who decide to protect the people — the new government, which will represent the people’s will, [we] must be grateful to you, brothers, children, nephews,” Rainsy said.
“I believe that the brothers, children, nephews in the armed forces will surely not listen to brutal, illegal and inhuman orders,” he added.
After Rainsy’s video appeal, Cambodia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat responded via social media that the appeal would have no influence on the military or cause any break.
“How could they afford to fund the army? So what they have been inciting is a national and international hoax,” Sucheat said.
Mu Sochua, the CNRP’s vice president, was blocked from entering Thailand last month. She has maintained, however, without elaborating, that she still planned to enter Thailand on Nov. 9 before marching over the border into Cambodia.