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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Culture of dialogue’ at risk

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy speak during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur
Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy speak during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur last weekend. KEM GUNAWADH

‘Culture of dialogue’ at risk

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that his and opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s “culture of dialogue” was in danger of extinction if opposition deputy Kem Sokha continued to step out of line and challenge the premier.

Speaking at the inauguration of a palm oil factory in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday, Hun Sen advised Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Rainsy to handle his party’s “internal issues” lest he risk jeopardising their recent cosy ties.

“I would like to tell His Excellency Sam Rainsy to educate the party properly,” he said. “If His Excellency cannot do that, the culture of dialogue will be no more.”

Hun Sen added that he hoped Rainsy wasn’t engaged in a “good cop, bad cop” situation.

“In case His Excellency Sam Rainsy is playing tricks . . . [he] negotiates with Hun Sen while Kem Sokha insults Hun Sen – I would like to ask His Excellency Sam Rainsy to address this,” he said.

Additionally, the premier maintained his stance that Kem Sokha had tried to topple the government following the disputed 2013 election, forcing him to respond to such threats by calling in security forces to crack down on dissent.

He proceeded with veiled threats – comparing Sokha to a snake that must be slain – and said that the deputy opposition leader didn’t have the guts to challenge him head-on.

“His Excellency, do not forget, next time [we] beat the snake, [we] will not beat the tail and the middle, but [we] will beat the head. Next time, if there is a problem, we will beat it at home,” he said.

“When [Sokha] is near me, he does not dare [speak ill], but when he’s far away, then he’s impolite.”

Furthermore, in another hit at Rainsy, Hun Sen claimed that the opposition leader had proposed to him a law that would guarantee amnesty from prosecution for previous leaders after they stepped down from office, but said he had rejected the proposal. Rainsy in the past has said that it was Hun Sen who approached him with a request for such a law.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann expressed his disappointment with Hun Sen’s comments, saying that the new-found culture of dialogue has been beneficial for Cambodia.

Regarding Hun Sen’s fighting words toward Sokha, Sovann urged the country’s leaders to consider the interests of the people over political disputes.

“We are politicians and should focus on national interests,” he said.

Sovan also said he could not confirm the premier’s allegations that Rainsy had proposed the immunity law.

Analyst and grassroots political aspirant Kem Ley said yesterday that the culture of dialogue could only be upheld if transparency and honesty are maintained.

“The culture of dialogue is just words – it is not sustainable,” he said. “[Hun Sen] seems to hate criticism. In democratic countries, they love criticism.”

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