|Siv Channa photo|
December 17, 2013
Defense Minister Tea Banh has instructed troops in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to brush up on history in order to know how to spot propaganda peddled by the opposition that could cause the country to descend once again into war.
“The false propaganda that causes discrimination based on racial complexion has caused Cambodia to fall into danger such as happened in past wars,” General Banh said, according to an article posted on the CPP’s official website on Friday.
“I appeal for troops to study the history of Cambodia from wartime regimes until reaching the peaceful time as in the present,” the minister said, adding that the opposition CNRP was spreading racist, anti-government propaganda intent on “causing a split in the internal affairs of Cambodia.”
Gen. Banh also said the opposition had the potential to bring about a return to the likes of Democratic Kampuchea, when the Khmer Rouge set about turning countrymen against each other and wiping out about 2 million people.
Invoking the spirit of January 7, when Vietnamese forces and senior members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP toppled the Khmer Rouge, Gen. Banh reminded troops to think of those who “rescued the nation from the killing regime and Pol Pot.”
“Cambodia depended on voluntary Vietnamese troops in cooperation with Cambodian volunteer troops to topple the [Pol Pot] regime, which brought a victory on January 7, 1979,” said Gen. Banh, who was speaking at the inauguration of a new building at the National Defense University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, which was funded by the Vietnamese National Defense Ministry.
The CNRP has consistently taken aim at Vietnam, accusing it of encroaching on Cambodian territory, and accusing members of the CPP government of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration of Vietnamese nationals to Cambodia.
“The opposition party is provoking a split in the unity of Cambodians and to split the friendship with neighboring countries such as Vietnam,” Gen. Banh said.
“[T]he opposition party also provokes the toppling of the current legitimized government,” he said.
Gen. Banh could not be reached for comment Monday.
General Sao Sokha, commander of the National Military Police, who also attended the ceremony Thursday, said he had not seen the article and would not confirm if Gen. Banh had been accurately quoted on the CPP’s website.
Gen. Sokha also declined to comment when asked if Gen. Banh’s warning was aimed at deterring members of the armed forces from supporting the CNRP.
“I heard that His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister [Tea Banh] wanted the rector of the National Defense University of Cambodia to write the facts into the history books about what happened in the past,” Gen. Sokha said.
CNRP Deputy President Kem Sokha said Monday that he disagreed with Gen. Banh’s interpretation of history and the causes of previous conflicts in Cambodia.
“What Tea Banh said makes it seem like he feels scared himself, because 70 percent of the vote [in July’s national election] came from the government’s civil servants and soldiers,” Mr. Sokha said.
“The CNRP never…confuses people about the history of Cambodia. The real war happened in Cambodia because of Vietnam: They had an internal civil war between north and south Vietnam, and the war spread to Cambodia,” Mr. Sokha said.
“All Cambodians in the military are clearly aware who created the CPP,” he said. “It’s Vietnam.”
The CNRP, whose 55 lawmakers-elect are boycotting parliament, began daily protests in Phnom Penh on Sunday aimed at forcing Mr. Hun Sen to resign, and to call a new election.
Asked whether the military police would intervene in the opposition’s daily protest, Gen. Sokha said only that he would fulfill his “obligation to protect the nation and protect people’s happiness.”