Where did the video clips on “Cambodia conducts military exercises” and “Hun Sen threatens war” come from, and how is it related to Thai elections?

Top Fact Checks Political

During the recent Songkran holidays, a number of social media users have posted a video clip about the military exercises by the Cambodian armed forces and another one featuring the speech of Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, warning about the eruption of war with a neighboring country if he is not in government.

COFACT has verified these clips and found that they are the old ones that were re-circulated with manipulated information and a political intent to coincide with Thailand’s general elections to be held on 14 May 2023.

Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, has confirmed that the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh had verified the information as false information.


The two-minute-long video clip about military exercises sports a tank with a Cambodian flag firing ammunition from its cannon, as well as military tactical training. The Twitter account user @EVILSAGAGemini published the clip on April 16 with a underling caption reading “The Cambodian Armed Forces conducted large scale military exercises at Battambang Province, over 20 kilometers from the Thai border after Hun Sen announced that if he loses the elections there will be war, and the land under Thailand and Vietnam will be reclaimed because it is Cambodian land (…). The caption went on : Who said that we (Thailand) have stopped fighting and stopped going to war?

As for the video clip about Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech that lasts about one minute, there have been many users circulating it on TikTok. It includes the scene with Prime Minister Hun Sen delivering a speech on stage in Khmer, with Thai subtitles. One part of the clip says “prepare to fight to reclaim our land that we have lost, including through war with Vietnam and with Thailand”.

Screen capture from a video clip about Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech posted on TikTok

Tiktok account user @like.sara12 posted the video clip on April 15 with the explanation “Hun Sen announced that there may be war to reclaim land from neighboring countries”. This video was viewed 1.8 million times as of 17 April. Another TikTok user circulated the clip and noted that “Hun Sen will attack and reclaim Thai and Vietnamese land”.

These posts sparked a barrage of criticisms about a policy to reform the armed forces including the termination of compulsory military draft vocally campaigned the Move Forward Party (MFP). Many users who commented referred to the speech of MFP leader, Mr. Pita Limjaroenrat, at the campaign rally in Kanchanaburi Province on 18 April, when Mr. Pita asked the question “Why/what use do we have of soldiers?”.

Pita said in one part that “Who would you be fighting with? If there were someone that invaded you, I don’t believe that you will win… Neighboring countries that have quarreled have now ceased such quarrels, and today the armed forces are being reduced in size. Some countries don’t even have an armed force if the country’s leader is smart enough. “

Aside from this, the video clips about the Cambodian Armed Forces’ military exercise and the speech of the Cambodian Prime Minister have been doctored and paired with part of Pita’s 18 April speech to create the misunderstanding that his party’s proposal to reduce the role and budget of the armed forces is not suitable to the current border situation.

COFACT verification

COFACT verification

From the COFACT’s video verification on April 17, two main points are established as follows

Point 1 : The Cambodian Armed Forces conducted military exercises near the Thai border

The URL of the video was placed in InVID-WeVerify, a Google-extension tool jointly developed by Horizon EU research and innovation action vera.ai and used news agencies to verify the content and source of the video. According to the result generated by the system which separated the video frame into a still image and placed on Google search, no similar image or content was found.

COFACT continued the search in Thai and English on TikTok and YouTube. It was found that there were many video images with the video being checked. On TikTok it was found that a video circulated by user account named @ninht3 on 8 February 2023 included a short caption with “T-55 CAMBODIA #Tank #Cambodia”.

On YouTube, a video clip published on the channel called “Ma Nin” was found. The 1.10 -minute-long clip uploaded on 29 March 2020 includes several images– almost all parts of the content– identical with those in the video circulated by Twitter account user @EVILSAGAGemini, however without details of the video content. In a close timing, the owner of “Ma Nin” YouTube channel also uploaded many other video clips on the military exercises. Some portions of the clips had tanks with the Chinese national flag, so it is possible that the events in the videos are actually military exercises between the Chinese and Cambodian armed forces called Golden Dragon which is held annually. In 2020, the newspaper website Khmer Times reported that the military exercises were held in Kampot Province between March 16 and 30.

At this stage, it is neither possible to indicate which event is featured in the video clip, nor the timing it occurs. However, it is possible to confirm that these videos were circulated on YouTube as early as three years ago. The conclusion is, therefore, a social media user in Thailand edited this clip of the military exercises and re-circulated it with misinformation to cause misunderstanding that it was an event that was happening near the Thai border.

Point 2 : Prime Minister of Cambodia warns of war between Cambodia and Thailand 

A search on the source of the video in the InVID-WeVerify tool revealed that the video was from an event where Hun Sen gave a speech at the graduation ceremony of Asia-Euro University in Phnom Penh on 23 August 2022, and his words were reported by many news agencies.

The Cambodian news website Khmer Times reported that the Prime Minister of Cambodia warned that if his Cambodian People’s Party -CPP were not to run the country, “war with Vietnam and Thailand will be inevitable” because other unnamed political parties have a policy of waging war with neighboring countries to reclaim their lost land.

The Thai news website Manager (Poo Chad Karn in Thai) also carried the news on 24 August 2022 indicating Hun Sen said Cambodia may enter in a state of war if the opposition party gains power.

“I think that war will erupt if the CPP Party does not rule the country. I dare say this because of 2 main reasons, that is, the opposition’s policy of asset seizures from the rich to the poor, and the process to reclaim lost land. With these methods, war will surely erupt between Cambodia and Vietnam and Cambodia and Thailand”, The Manager quoted the Prime Minister of Cambodia as saying.

From the reports of various news agencies, it can be concluded that the content in the video is indeed the words spoken by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, but the re-circulated version is intended to cause misunderstanding, with some of his sentences edited out, absent of Cambodia’s political context in Cambodia, and linked with the policy of a political party during campaign trails.

Conclusion of COFACT : Distorted information causes misunderstanding. Don’t share.

The images of military exercises of the Cambodian Armed Forces seen in the video clip is an event that happened not less than 3 years ago, which may actually be images from the Golden Dragon military exercises between the armed forces of China and Cambodia in Kampot Province in March 2020. As for the video with the words of Prime Minister Hun Sen that war will erupt with Thailand and Vietnam if he were no longer leader of the country, the content corresponds to the news reports, but some clips were doctored and edited out, with captions that create the misunderstanding that Cambodia is fighting with Thailand and Vietnam to reclaim its land.

Aside from this, there has been no verification on whether the allegation about Hun Sen claiming that the Cambodian opposition party has a policy of reclaiming land back from neighboring countries is true or not.

Both Thailand and Cambodia are about to hold general elections on May 14 May and May 23, respectively, and during such political transition, it is likely distorted information be created for political gain. Consumers of news should therefore verify and consider information with circumspect before believing or sharing.