Cambodian army investigates call for coup d’etat

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Som Sovanara
Screenshot of the “coup” video

Cambodia’s military is investigating a suspected coup plot against Prime Minister Hun Sen after an activist announced plans to topple Cambodia’s leader in Facebook and YouTube videos and called on others to join his cause, said Cambodia’s defence ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat.

“The authorities are investigating and looking for him,” Chhum Sucheat told Reuters. He gave the man’s name as “Vichea Som” but declined to give further details.

In the video, the man is dressed in a business suit and tie with a camouflage background visible in the footage. He did not identify himself but accused Hun Sen’s government and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of being behind big land grabs in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. He also accused the government of high-profile killings and human rights abuses.

He called on military forces to be ready to “go against the authoritarian leadership of the CPP, Hun Sen and Yuon communists”, using a word for Vietnamese people some consider derogatory.

“In the near future, please all forces be ready against the dictatorial regime,” the man said. It was not clear where he was speaking from but he said he belonged to a “unit” based in southwestern Cambodia.

It later turned out that the man’s real name is Som Sovanara, a former soldier of the Cambodian army living in Canada, where he received asylum after fleeing Cambodia in 2013 for being a member of the exile organisation Khmer National Liberation Front, branded a “terrorist” group by the government.

Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia with an iron fist for more than 30 years, defeating all challenges to his authority, but he now faces a young electorate which appears increasingly hungry for change. In recent months, tensions have been rising between Hun Sen and an opposition hoping to challenge him in local elections next year and a general election in 2018.

Several members of the opposition and activists have been jailed as part of what they say is a government crackdown to silence critics ahead of the elections. On July 10, Kem Ley, a prominent activist and frequent critic of Hun Sen, was murdered under dubious circumstances in Phnom Penh. Activists believe his murder was politically motivated.

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[caption id="attachment_28647" align="alignleft" width="300"] Screenshot of the "coup" video[/caption] Cambodia's military is investigating a suspected coup plot against Prime Minister Hun Sen after an activist announced plans to topple Cambodia's leader in Facebook and YouTube videos and called on others to join his cause, said Cambodia's defence ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat. "The authorities are investigating and looking for him," Chhum Sucheat told Reuters. He gave the man's name as "Vichea Som" but declined to give further details. In the video, the man is dressed in a business suit and tie with a camouflage background visible in the footage. He did...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Som Sovanara
Screenshot of the “coup” video

Cambodia’s military is investigating a suspected coup plot against Prime Minister Hun Sen after an activist announced plans to topple Cambodia’s leader in Facebook and YouTube videos and called on others to join his cause, said Cambodia’s defence ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat.

“The authorities are investigating and looking for him,” Chhum Sucheat told Reuters. He gave the man’s name as “Vichea Som” but declined to give further details.

In the video, the man is dressed in a business suit and tie with a camouflage background visible in the footage. He did not identify himself but accused Hun Sen’s government and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of being behind big land grabs in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. He also accused the government of high-profile killings and human rights abuses.

He called on military forces to be ready to “go against the authoritarian leadership of the CPP, Hun Sen and Yuon communists”, using a word for Vietnamese people some consider derogatory.

“In the near future, please all forces be ready against the dictatorial regime,” the man said. It was not clear where he was speaking from but he said he belonged to a “unit” based in southwestern Cambodia.

It later turned out that the man’s real name is Som Sovanara, a former soldier of the Cambodian army living in Canada, where he received asylum after fleeing Cambodia in 2013 for being a member of the exile organisation Khmer National Liberation Front, branded a “terrorist” group by the government.

Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia with an iron fist for more than 30 years, defeating all challenges to his authority, but he now faces a young electorate which appears increasingly hungry for change. In recent months, tensions have been rising between Hun Sen and an opposition hoping to challenge him in local elections next year and a general election in 2018.

Several members of the opposition and activists have been jailed as part of what they say is a government crackdown to silence critics ahead of the elections. On July 10, Kem Ley, a prominent activist and frequent critic of Hun Sen, was murdered under dubious circumstances in Phnom Penh. Activists believe his murder was politically motivated.

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