RCAF Chief Tells Troops to Fight Against ‘Color Revolution’

The commander-in-chief of the armed forces on Monday ordered all soldiers to defend “public order” on June 4 when voters will elect new commune councilors and to fight against potential “color revolutions.”

“[Soldiers] have to continue to strongly defend peace and development. The army must oppose color revolutions absolutely and never allow them to occur in Cambodia’s territory,” General Pol Saroeun said in a post to his Facebook page after speaking at Brigade 70 headquarters in Phnom Penh while inspecting military armaments and vehicles.

Commander-in-chief of the armed forces Pol Saroeun inspects military vehicles at Brigadier 70 headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday, in a photograph posted to his Facebook page.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials often use the term “color revolutions,” either willfully or mistakenly conflating actual color revolutions—peaceful popular movements for democratic change—with civil wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

Gen. Saroeun said in the post that the military had to “respect and carry out the orders issued by the Royal Government, Defense Ministry and the high command headquarters to be 100 percent successful.”

“You must cooperate with relevant institutions in defending security [and] public order during the commune elections,” he said. “The army must defend the legitimate Royal Government.”

Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat declined to comment on Monday as he had not seen Gen. Saroeun’s comments.

But political analyst Meas Nee said the general should not talk of color revolutions during the two-week campaign period prior to Election Day because his statements could be perceived as a threat.

“These words should not be spoken while the election campaigns are conducted because the people will think that it is a threat,” Mr. Nee said, adding that the armed forces were obliged to defend the elected government.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers stand in formation on Monday at Brigade 70 headquarters in Phnom Penh, in a photograph posted to RCAF commander-in-chief Pol Saroeun’s Facebook page.

Last week, Defense Minister Tea Banh threatened to “smash the teeth” of political opponents who demonstrate against the commune election results. He appeared to invoke opposition protests that followed the disputed 2013 national election and vowed to prevent similar demonstrations from happening again.

“If they lose, but do not accept that loss, and come up with this or that demand—maybe soon we will smash their teeth,” General Banh said. “I told you first.”

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said more than 30,000 police officers, military police and soldiers would be deployed on June 4 to ensure that no one could “destroy” the elections.

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander-in-chief Pol Saroeun said on May 22 that soldiers should defend public order on election day on June 4. He also said they should fight against potential “color revolutions,” but did not say they should do so on election day specifically. 

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