Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday used the opening of a Chinese-funded road to extol his government’s record of development ahead of the 2017 and 2018 elections, while at the same time delivering thinly veiled warnings to political opponents.
Speaking at the inauguration of National Road 44 in Kampong Speu province, the premier wheeled out familiar lines about the Kingdom’s development and “political stability” in an appeal to voters “nationwide” to allow him to continue leading the country.
The $80 million, almost three-year project – which upgraded roads in the province to link national roads 4 and 5 – was mostly funded by Chinese state loans but also included $5 million from the state’s coffers.
Nevertheless, Hun Sen placed the rejuvenated 139 kilometres of asphalt squarely among the ruling Cambodian People Party’s “achievements”, noting his government’s policy of promoting strong ties with Beijing.
“Vote for the CPP and vote for me to be elected as the prime minister and this achievement happens,” Hun Sen said. “It is not the same between Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP and other parties. What has happened, including this national road that we inaugurate today, is the achievement of the CPP and myself, because I directly led this project.”
At the same time, the prime minister, long known for his love of chess, used the game as a metaphor to deliver a warning to the opposition, reminding his rivals they were facing a more skilled opponent.
In response yesterday, Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Eng Chhay Eang seized on the chess metaphor himself to note it wasn’t difficult to win when you were both player and arbitrator, a dynamic he said was also evident in Cambodia’s courts.
However, Hun Sen’s comments were not all figurative. He also called out opposition Senator Thak Lany – who together with CNRP president Sam Rainsy was on Monday sued by the premier – with a warning against fleeing the country.
Though stopping short of naming the politician, he said he knew she had hoped to “cross the Poipet checkpoint on July 31”, which he cautioned her against attempting.
“If you dare to accuse me, you must be ready to face court. If you dare escape, you must be prepared to be arrested,” he said.
Attempts to reach Lany were unsuccessful yesterday.
Rainsy and Lany have been accused of “slander” and “incitement” by the premier for linking him and his government to the murder of political analyst Kem Ley, who was gunned down on July 10.
Lany has denied making the remarks, saying that the footage showing her speaking was edited.
Despite the government’s condemnation and its arrest of former soldier Oeut Ang, who claimed Ley was in his debt, many Cambodians see the murder as a political assassination, with suspicions fuelled by several glaring inconsistencies in the suspect’s story.
Yesterday, Phnom Penh municipal police chief Choun Sovann was again forced to offer an explanation for the strange behaviour of officers who arrested the suspect after he fled from the scene on foot.
Though the suspect is carrying a Glock handgun, the alleged murder weapon, in the footage, an officer on an identified police motorbike can be seen casually riding up to the suspect, who then appears to unsuccessfully try to get onto the bike as the officer waits.
Amid accusations that the officer and suspect appeared to be familiar with each other, Sovan yesterday rejected Ang had attempted to board the bike – which is later used to take him away – but had “brushed” past it.
He also maintained the police officer seen was simply a commune police officer involved in the chase.