World Bulletin / News Desk
A video posted to YouTube and the Facebook page of a Vichea Som on Sunday showed a man sitting in front of a camouflage-print banner declaring a coup d’etat before listing numerous alleged human rights abuses by Hun Sen over the course of his more than 30 years in power.
The man identified himself as speaking on behalf of “the unit of the southwest region,” according to a translation published by The Cambodia Daily, and his Facebook page showed him in army uniform.
It was still unclear Thursday, however, whether the man was actually a member of the Cambodian military.
General Kirth Chantharith, spokesman for the Cambodian National Police, told Anadolu Agency that the man was being sought for arrest, but his identity was still unclear.
“As a result of the investigation, now we can identify, but it’s not really clear a hundred percent,” he said. “However, we have information leading to the finding, so we continue our investigation. We are seeking to arrest him.”
Chantharith said it appeared that the man was outside of Cambodia, but declined to elaborate on where he might be.
Asked whether the government believed the coup threat to be serious, Chantharith laughed.
“It’s a funny story,” he said. “It’s hopeless. He’s just a crazy man, just wants to do or just show off that he is a hero of Cambodian opposition, something like that.”
“Maybe you can know the real situation in Cambodia, so how can someone make the coup now?” he added. “I just say that and you can analyze yourself.”
On Wednesday, the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), a dissident group based in Denmark that the Cambodian government has denounced as a terrorist organization, issued a statement identifying the person in the video as one of its members, although it said he had not meant to declare a coup.
However, Gen. Chantharith said the government had not yet established that the man was truly affiliated with the KNLF or what his intentions were.
“We still cannot say, because we have to find more evidence and proof,” he said.
The Cambodia Daily reported Thursday that the group’s spokesman had identified the man as Som Sovannara and said he was living abroad.
The news of the “coup” plot comes amid rising political tensions as the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Hun Sen, which keeps firm control over the country’s military and security forces, has been fending off a challenge from the more liberal Cambodia National Rescue Party, which had unexpected success in the 2013 national election.
Since then, however, both of the party’s two top leaders have been hobbled by legal troubles, with the opposition leader being forced into exile in France while the deputy leader has been hiding out inside the party’s headquarters after being threatened with arrest in May.
Most recently, a prominent political commentator was shot dead in broad daylight July 10 in a killing that the opposition has accused of being a state-sponsored assassination.
Thousands of angry mourners are expected in the capital Sunday for a procession to escort his body back to his hometown to be cremated.