It was received soon after Hun Sen – the longest serving prime minister in the world – had told protesters in Australia that he would “pursue them to their homes and beat them up” if they burnt an effigy of him during his visit to Sydney for an Australia-ASEAN summit.
The new threat was sent six weeks before the CPP’s election victory became certain, as political rivals were marginalised during a sustained crackdown on dissent in recent years, and the only serious opposition party was barred from contesting the polls on a technicality.
However, Hun Sen and his party, which holds all 125 seats in Cambodia’s National Assembly, are also bidding to consolidate control ahead of the foreshadowed transition of power, in which 45-year-old Hun Manet, the West Point-trained chief of the Royal Cambodian Army, would become prime minister.
In Australia, members of the Cambodian community – as recently as at a demonstration on Sunday – have called on the Albanese government not to recognise the “undemocratic elections”, but say they have faced pressure from loyalists to the CPP, which has established networks in most capital cities in Australia.
“It’s an open secret, this intimidation,” Tak said. “If you want to express something at all, if you want to participate in community activities, if you want to participate in protests like last Sunday, people think twice before they participate due to that threat being created through CPP activities in Melbourne and in Australia.”
In an interview in Phnom Penh, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan denied the party was involved in any intimidation of diaspora communities in Australia.
“The Cambodian People’s Party have sent their own people to work in Australia and they were accused of putting threats against the Cambodian community in Australia,” he said.
“I know this accusation. This is the accusation by the opposition and some Australian parliamentarians. Our position is it’s not based on fact.”
Asked about the letter sent to Tak, he added: “I don’t know about this threat. If there is a threat against someone, one should report to the local authority of Australia. [The] Cambodian government is not involved in this threat in the foreign country.”
Sawathey Ek, a Sydney lawyer and head of the Cambodian Action Group, said the tentacles of the Cambodian ruling party in Australia exposed the shortcomings of foreign interference legislation.
He is calling for a federal parliamentary inquiry into CPP activities in major cities and for extra conditions to be attached to visas for Cambodian students in Australia.
The Coalition is expected to propose a motion after parliament resumes on July 31 that urges the Albanese government to fully investigate claims of infiltration and monitoring of the Cambodian community in Australia, and reports of multi-million dollar property purchases in Australia by wealthy members of the ruling elite in Phnom Penh.
Federal Labor MP Julian Hill has been a critic of high-level Cambodian officials being permitted to visit Australia to give weight to the CPP presence in the country. He has alleged there has been interference in temples and temple elections in Australia and that fake charity events were held to raise money.
“This is an organised outfit,” he told parliament in March. “I know of people, both Cambodian-Australians and Cambodians studying in Australia, who were forced to join these [propaganda] events and the implicit threat … was, ‘We know who you are, we know where you are and most importantly we know where your family is in Cambodia’.
“Cambodian-Australians and others from diaspora communities must be able to exercise their democratic rights and freedoms without being threatened or coerced. It’s a difficult problem to tackle and the government is doing what we can.”
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil’s office was contacted for comment.
With Nara Lon