The owner of popular Phnom Penh-based radio station ABC used a morning broadcast on Tuesday to predict that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces would move to oust opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha if they win Sunday’s national election.
Seng Bunveng, who set up ABC Radio in 2008 and goes by the pseudonym “Aja A,” said on air that the military would stage a coup if the opposition were to win because most soldiers are ultimately loyal to the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“You cannot be prime minister now because many soldiers sacrificed their lives to get rid of the war of the Pol Pot regime,” Mr. Bunveng said in reference to Mr. Rainsy.
“You must wait fifteen more years until those soldiers die of old age,” he added, saying he too would vote for Mr. Rainsy at such a time if he was still alive.
While Mr. Bunveng insisted that his comments were not designed to prefer one of the two main political parties over the other, his comments resulted in a slew of angry calls to the station.
“If the Cambodia National Rescue Party wins the election and a war breaks out, why is the National Election Committee [NEC] bothering to organize an election?” one caller asked.
Mr. Bunveng responded that it was not Mr. Hun Sen who would lead such a coup d’etat, but the military itself, driven by its loyalty to his ruling CPP.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said Tuesday that Mr. Bunveng’s comments were designed to discourage people from voting for the CNRP.
“I don’t think the military will do anything because [the election results represent] the will of the people,” Mr. Panha said.
“The NEC must address this issue and should ask the [radio station] owner to clarify his comments to the public,” he added.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Tuesday that the election body would only act if the radio station owner repeated his comments.
“Such commentary from Aja A is not right. No media can comment on whether there will be a coup d’etat if one party or another wins the election,” he said. “I will order my colleagues to monitor this radio station to stop such commentary airing and disturbing the election process.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that Mr. Bunveng’s comments were intended to scare his listeners.
“This case is intended to create chaos before the national election—this man loves war and is inciting war, and trying to incite listeners,” he said. “The CNRP is the party of freedom and democracy, so soldiers won’t stage a coup,” he said.
“The military will be happy if the CNRP wins the election because they will receive a higher salary,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)
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