DEPUTY Prime Minister of Cambodia Tea Banh has warned that he will “smash the teeth” of anybody who protests after the council commune elections on June 4, drawing sharp criticism from local and international politicians.
Speaking at the inauguration of a government building in Siem Reap, General Tea Banh declared that if opposition groups attempted to protest electoral results as with previous polls, “I’ll break their teeth and won’t tolerate any nonsense, because we’ve been wasting too much time on them.”
“These people always come out of nowhere claiming this and that. We won’t allow it anymore,” said Tea Banh, who is also the country’s defence minister, as quoted by the Khmer Times.
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Mu Sochua slammed the comments, saying: “Voters should not be threatened. All parties should be allowed to motivate voters to go to the polls in free and fair elections, without intimidation.”
A social commentator Meas Ny was quoted by the Khmer Times as saying, “this kind of thing is no longer effective. The more the government uses such words, the more loss it causes them, because people are educated and knowledgeable.”
“These blatant threats of violence against the opposition and against anyone who dares to criticise the ruling party are extremely worrying and undermine the prospect for free and fair elections,” said Chair of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Malaysia’s Charles Santiago in a statement.
Political tension has been increasing in Cambodia in recent months as opponents of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) accuse them of unfair maneuvering to maintain their grip on power in local elections in June and a general election next year.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is one of the longest serving world leaders on the planet. He recently warned opposition against protesting election results, recently stating the “armed forces will crack down immediately. If war happens, let it be.”
“Although this is not the first time that senior government officials have used such threatening rhetoric, the fact that the Defense Minister – whose particular position makes his neutrality all the more important … demonstrates how far the government is willing to stay in power,” added Santiago.
“The legitimacy of the election process is increasingly under question and the global community will be watching what happens on June 4th.”