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Dinner lives on for PM, Rainsy

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy take a photo together during a dinner at the Hotel Cambodiana on July 11.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy take a photo together during a dinner at the Hotel Cambodiana on July 11. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Dinner lives on for PM, Rainsy

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday continued his full-bore attack on the opposition, lashing out at Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy for comments to the French press about the pair’s children working together to ensure a democratic future.

In a speech yesterday to launch an industrial development policy at the Council of Ministers, the premier also confronted an American diplomat over remarks by CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha that the party was backed by a powerful democratic country.

But it was Rainsy’s remarks related to a dinner between the two leaders and their families in July, heralded at the time as “historic” proof the pair had moved beyond their old combative ways amid the so-called the culture of dialogue, that drew Hun Sen’s ire.

Following the meal, Rainsy told French newspaper Liberation that Hun Sen, aware his reign was ending, had changed and, desiring a transition and political legitimacy for his children, wanted the pair’s kids to connect.

“Hun Sen wants his children to get to know mine, that they learn to talk in order to work together,” Rainsy said.

“[Hun Sen] told me in a text ‘I’m not anything anymore, the children are everything for me.’

“He knows that his children can’t direct the country with an iron fist like him. He would like that his children pursue a political career within a democratic frame.”

But yesterday, Hun Sen denied suggesting their children meet.

The premier – whose children include a lawmaker, two high-ranking generals and a business magnate – said Rainsy had messaged to say his children were coming to town and, in response, he organised the family dinner, held at the Cambodiana Hotel.

Saying his credibility was being questioned, Hun Sen said: “Do my children go from Cambodia to meet his children in Switzerland or America, or do his children come from America, from Switzerland to meet in Cambodia?

“In spite of the relationship between our families, he is trying to get one over on me politically.

“[How] can I keep calm? Can I let [Sam Rainsy] gain? I hope Her Excellency also advises her husband,” he said, referring to Rainsy’s wife, Tioulong Saumura, also a lawmaker.

“I am very regretful that given everything [we] have tried to build, he has acted dishonestly.”

Responding by email yesterday, Rainsy, currently in Australia with deputy Kem Sokha, declined to comment “on anything not related to national issues”.

During the speech, Hun Sen also confronted US Chargé d’Affaires Julie Chung about comments made by Kem Sokha while in Australia.

Sokha said the CNRP was being helped by a powerful democratic country to develop its policies, which would help the party lead the country after an expected 2018 election win.

“So [I] would like to ask Her Excellency chargé d’affaires of America. Is this America really?”

Referring to Sokha’s remarks, he said that “now [the CNRP] focuses on America because America likes to [interfere]”.

He then claimed a vote for the CNRP would mean a vote for interference by a foreign power in Cambodian affairs and told the crowd: “Continue to vote for [CPP]. Continue to support Hun Sen to be prime minister; this will ensure stability,” he said.

Yesterday, Sokha’s chief of cabinet, Muth Chanta, said the deputy president was referring to the German organisation Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), which has provided assistance as the opposition drafts its political platform.

KAS spokesman Dennis Schrey said the group, upon request, offered neutral advice to both parties.

Jay Raman, spokesman for the United States Embassy, said the US didn’t support one party or candidate over another.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING SHAUN TURTON

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