Days after the ruling party leaders gathered to discuss ways to “attack” and “weaken” their political opponents, Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced he will tour Cambodia’s 25 provinces, in what one analyst called a pre-election popularity drive.
The first stops were in Battambang, where he spoke yesterday at the inauguration of a water treatment plant, and in Banteay Meanchey, where he addressed military commanders and officers.
“I will go to other places with the aim of inspecting the development that has been accomplished and the continuing problems that have not been finished yet and need to be solved,” he said in Battambang.
The premier said he would meet with civil servants, citizens and soldiers and would urge local authorities to improve services ahead of next year’s commune elections.
“If we have good provincial, district and town governors, it helps a lot and the prime minister will not have much of a headache,” he said.
During his speech, Hun Sen also appeared to allude to the current political tension by reminding attendees about the dangers of “colouring” people.
Discussing the turmoil and violence during the UN intervention in the country in the early 1990s, the premier said: “It is very dangerous when Khmer colours Khmer; it turned out like this: this is red, this is blue, and this is white and these are the puppets of other, and that is why Khmer died.”
Banteay Meanchey Provincial Governor Suon Bover said the premier also yesterday met with more than 350 military commanders and officers from the region and asked them to “strengthen security” and provide a better public service.
At a central committee meeting on Tuesday, the CPP discussed plans to further “weaken” the opposition while also strengthening the state apparatus, particularly the armed forces.
Speaking yesterday, political analyst Meas Ny said the tour was a clear bid to win support among public workers and soldiers as election season neared.
“Civil servants are an important factor in terms of gaining popularity, thousands of them will vote, so if they’ve lost trust in the CPP, they won’t vote for them,” Ny said.
He also noted that while Hun Sen could travel the country, the opposition’s leaders were not so lucky.
Both the CNRP’s president Sam Rainsy and the party’s acting president Kem Sokha face charges in what are widely seen as politically motivated cases.
Rainsy is in self-imposed exile in France while Sokha is holed up in the party’s headquarters to avoid arrest. Two other lawmakers have already been jailed.
Speaking yesterday, CNRP spokesman Eng Chhai Eang said that the party had suspended field trips in light of the situation.