The government will investigate anonymous, unsubstantiated claims that the opposition party received help from the “extremist” ruling party in Taiwan and also probe alleged foreign donations to the CNRP, officials said on Thursday.
The investigation appeared to be sparked by the latest in a series of Facebook posts by the anonymous Kon Khmer, or Khmer Child, Facebook page alleging a shadowy network of foreign donors, spies and advisers propping up supposed CNRP attempts to topple the government.
“We cannot be careless,” CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Thursday. “When terrorist acts come to the country, we need to be ready in order not to fall, like in the Middle East.”
CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua said the investigations amounted to harassment and were “very dangerous for the country.”
Like past posts, Thursday’s accusations by the Kon Khmer page was based on Facebook photos and anonymous sources and was quickly reposted verbatim by government mouthpiece Fresh News.
Citing sources from the “Taiwanese modern democratic movement,” the poster alleges that the CNRP colluded with NGOs to smuggle in “organized extremist groups from Taiwan” and hold meetings at CNRP headquarters in December 2013.
The alleged extremist groups encouraged the CNRP to expand post-national election protests, culminating in the deadly Veng Sreng Street protests in early January 2014, the post claims.
The “secret cooperation” continued in January last year, the poster said, when members of the opposition party, including CNRP president Kem Sokha’s daughter, Kem Monovithya, traveled to Taiwan to support the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in reaching a decisive election victory.
The DPP rejects Beijing’s One China policy, which holds the independently-ruled Taiwan to be a breakaway territory of the mainland. The party’s victory infuriated Beijing even as the economic and cultural relationships between the countries remained strong.
The post suggests that the CNRP’s links with the DPP also amounted to a repudiation of the Cambodian government’s adherence to the One China policy, and repeated past allegations linking the opposition to the U.S.
“It is advice for the rulers in Cambodia and Beijing to consider,” it adds.
Mr. Eysan said the Interior Ministry would look into the claims and denied a political motive to the investigation, which comes in the midst of a broader crackdown on independent media and civil society with ties to the U.S.
He said the ministry would also look into recent Kon Khmer accusations that U.S.-funded organizations provided financial assistance to the CNRP.
“When we hear information like that, [authorities] need to investigate to find proof of whether they did or not,” he said. “It’s to clear suspicions from them, not mistreat them.”
Mr. Eysan referred further questions about the probe to Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak who could not be reached for comment.
But Mr. Sopheak told Fresh News on Wednesday that the ministry had assigned National Police to investigate foreign donations.
“Our nation has received tragedy and bloody war because of foreign interference,” he said, invoking rules in the Law on Political Parties barring parties from accepting aid from foreign countries, organizations or individuals.
The rules were added in March as part of a batch of amendments to the law, which also allows the Interior Ministry to suspend parties and courts to dissolve them for a broad batch of offenses.
Ms. Sochua said that in order to be fair, the government also needed to look into the ruling party’s funding. She said there was nothing illegal about meeting with foreign political parties and denied any opposition plan to overthrow the government.
“When Fresh News leaks, it is a clue that the government will take it as a reason to harass, threaten, intimidate and it will lead them to close the organization,” she said, adding that the moves appeared to be preparation for next year’s national election.
The government last week shut down the National Democratic Institute, a U.S.-funded democracy NGO, after a deluge of similar conspiracies from the Facebook page.
“It’s a shame if anyone takes this circus seriously,” Ms. Monovithya wrote in an email.
Representatives of the DPP and Taiwanese government either could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comment.
Miguel Chanco, lead regional analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the investigation was unusual.
“The skeptic in me sees the hand of China in this move,” he wrote in an email. “The accusations certainly serve the interests of the regimes in Phnom Penh and Beijing as they paint their political opponents in a bad light. In Cambodia, the claims are likely to fuel the unfounded notions that foreign powers are working to overthrow
Still, he doubted an economic impact on the estimated $744 million in bilateral trade recorded in 2015.
Sophal Ear, author of “Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy,” said that the CNRP was “already a shell of its former self” but predicted it would survive in some form for next year’s elections.
The party “looks to me in disarray and running for the hills,” he wrote in an email. “Its survival is so important that it doesn’t seem to know what to do as Cambodian democracy is gutted from within, filleted like a fish.”
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