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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen Predicts Landslide Victory

Hun Sen Predicts Landslide Victory

Prime Minister Hun Sen recently took a break from his hectic campaign schedule to

talk to the Post's Kevin Barrington. Looking relaxed and confident, Hun Sen spoke

of the likelihood of his party's victory at the polls, of the possibilities of forming

a coalition government and of the so-called 'government of national reconciliation'.

He defended the Cambodian People's Party against accusations of corruption and politically

motivated violence. He also aired his views on the problems presented by the Khmer

Rouge and he expressed a strong fear that the international community would continue

to recognize the radical faction as well as his newly governing party if it wins

the election.

How do you see your party faring in the forthcoming elections?

Hun Sen: I don't have the habit of selling the bear's skin before killing the bear.

But, let's say, we are confident. The confidence is the result of the three week's

electoral campaign. People have expressed more support for our party. The rallies

have had 40,000 to 80,000 supporters. No one forces them to come. But they want to

come just to listen and see me. We are quite confident that we will win.

Do you feel you could get a majority of seats in the constituent assembly?

We need an absolute majority and we feel confident that we can master this majority.

We will exert efforts to get a comfortable majority in order to draw up the constitution.

According to opinion polls we will get maybe 70 percent of the vote.

We have noticed that the people have started to have more confidence and more trust

in us. What's more we are not just talking and we are not going to run away and abandon

the people. This is very important because the people were fooled in the past by

people with empty promises who ran away and abandoned the people in difficult situations.

During the most difficult period of the people's lives, only the CPP stayed with

them.

People also see that I am telling the truth. And if I am wrong, I dare to apologize.

During my eight years as prime minister people realize that there has been an improvement

in their standard of living.

But throughout the country one hears widespread accusations about the corruption

in your party and amongst a number of its officials...

First let me share a joke. One newspaper published an article the other day saying,

in all the 20 political parties, there are corrupt people. Therefore they wanted

to form an association of corrupt people. Another person, also joking with me, suggested

an international association of corrupt people. Because, around the world, no single

country can claim to be clean from corruption, even very advanced countries.

They [political parties] always use this issue. I remember when Prince Sihanouk was

overthrown, the accusations against him were the corruption of his regime and his

pro-Vietnam stance. When they overthrew the Lon Nol regime, they blamed Lon Nol for

corruption and also for his pro-U.S. position. Of course, I am not referring to the

Pol Pot regime because they went too far, even beyond corruption into genocide.

Now the same sorts of accusations are being thrown at me. In their election campaign,

they say that the Hun Sen government is corrupt, that it is pro-Vietnam. But who

makes these accusations? The same people who worked for Prince Sihanouk in the past,

who worked for Lon Nol and who sometimes joined forces with the Khmer Rouge.

That's why I say that the people who make the accusation are old time corrupt people.

And my government is very newly corrupt.

However, I also recognize there is corruption in my country and I personally have

fought against it. But I have to face a lot of problems because of different factors.

First, there's the situation of warfare. In any country engulfed in war, corruption

is difficult to control. Secondly, I have had to introduce economic reforms. It is

not at all easy to make reforms from an old to a new situation. In the new stage

we are not yet in a comfortable situation or a lawful environment.

And, talking about the privat-ization of the economy and enterprise, we do not have

a sufficient legal framework. So, of course, opportunistic people take advantage

of this situation.

Since 1991, however, we have taken three measures to control the situation. The first

one is to issue new legal frameworks for the sake of control. The second was to replace

officials who were corrupt or incompetent with new ones. Thirdly, we have been using

the support of the masses in order to reveal acts of corruption amongst the officials.

So the local population helps us in revealing the face of corruption.

If my party wins the election, I will continue to implement these three measures.

And perhaps I will add another measure that I have mentioned during my campaign.

This involves changing the attitude of government officials. All government officials

have to change their mentality from being people exercising power to being the servants,

the ones who sustain and support the production activities of all economic life.

And all economic players must also change their mentality to perform their duties

in a way that contributes to economic development.

So, I am not just repeating a slogan like the other political parties talking about

corruption, but without any concrete measures.

Mr. Akashi recently made a statement in which he criticized CPP for utilizing

the resources of the state for party political gain. What do you have to say about

this?

One day after his statement, I had a meeting with Mr. Akashi on Apr. 22. I told him

that those officials who are engaged in political campaigning have been asked to

resign temporarily for two months, without pay. With regard to materials, vehicles

and fuel for instance, we are using our party's resources. And as for the army and

the police force, I think the situation is normal. It is their duty to provide security

and protection for me. They also provide security for other political parties as

well. After their daily work they can support any other political party; it is their

political right.

I also told Mr. Akashi, 'please look the other way around also, not just look at

Hun Sen.' You have to look into the money which FUNCINPEC gets from the export of

timber. If the revenues from the logging were used to buy TV stations, radios or

even planes, this is wrong. This is not the revenue of the party but of the state.

They use this money to buy, I don't know how many thousands of cars here.

Also we should not overlook the problem of some FUNCINPEC generals who are standing

as candidates. These generals are still enjoying their salaries.

Some people feel that the elections will not be legitimate if a considerable number

of people are disenfranchised due to security concerns. How do you feel about this

issue?

I warned UNTAC of an emergency situation, that the Khmer Rouge would disrupt the

elections. But my views were not sufficiently taken into consideration. Right now

everyone seems to be very scared, too scared from my point of view. Of course, the

Khmer Rouge will try to disrupt the elections. But it's not just a question of the

Khmer Rouge's ability. It depends also on our ability and efforts to stop them.

The Khmer Rouge's intention is not only to disrupt the election but in fact, to take

over the whole country. However, over the past 14 years they could not prevail over

our forces, the forces of the Cambodian people.

I think we should not set too low a level of turnout in these elections. After all

the efforts, how can we accept only 50 to 60 percent of the voters casting their

vote? I think that we should target between 90 and 100 percent voter turnout. I believe

that we can achieve this. Because I believe that the Khmer Rouge do not have the

complete free hand to disrupt. We have the means and the people to prevent them from

doing so.

I am also pleased that UNTAC has set up the mobile teams for the election. But in

anticipation (of disruptions) UNTAC should extend the election for a few more days.

Now we have only six days, we can extend it to 8 or ten days in order to have all

the voters cast their vote, because the population very much wants to cast their

vote. If only 50 or 60 percent of voters come out to vote, this would not really

represent the true result of the election. So why not a few more days? We have been

preparing it for two years already.

Apart from the Khmer Rouge, there are a few more political parties who might also

not want to recognize the elections. And if only 50 or 60 percent turn out, this

could be used by the losing parties as an argument that the election was not fair

and democratic and they might not recognize the results. Therefore they must not

be given this opportunity.

Also, on this subject, there are concerns that there might be election rigging. Therefore

we should not give the chance to any party to argue this. In this election UNTAC

is the one reponsible for the control and transport the ballot boxes. That's why

I told Mr. Akashi and Mr. Austin that they should accept the request made by the

other political parties to allow their representatives to keep watch over the ballot

boxes during the night and during transportation. We very much want that all the

political parties recognize these elections as fair and democratic.

What is your assessment of the Khmer Rouge's current strategy?

Right now the Khmer Rouge have their main objective and another in reserve. The main

objective is to destroy, at all costs, the election process. They have no interest

in allowing the election to proceed smoothly because it will place the Khmer Rouge

as outlaws.

Therefore, they will stage military attacks, economic sabotage, terrorism and will

try to persuade their allies to boycott the election or to drop out. But in case

they cannot achieve this, they have another objective in reserve. After the elections

they will issue a statement not to recognize the election results. Therefore they

will continue to harass the new government by military and economic sabotage. You

can notice that Mr. Khieu Samphan objected to the World Bank loan even knowing that

the money would only arrive after the election.

There has been much talk of a government of national reconciliation. How would

you view this in light of a CPP victory?

I would like to speak in concrete terms and not just refer to reconciliation, reconciliation,

all the time without concrete measures, so that's why I ask 'what do you mean by

reconciliation?' But the answer I always get is reconciliation. But for reconciliation,

first of all we have the Paris agreement and this is the auspices under which all

the parties, all the factions must work together. You cannot do anything that goes

beyond the agreement that everyone has signed.

Now would you accept that we blame the Paris agreement, we blame the U.N. Security

Council, we blame all the 20 political parties that are taking part in the process?

Or should we blame only the Khmer Rouge who have not implemented the provisions of

the Paris agreement and have decided to withdraw from the peace process.

The constitution which comes from the new government after the general elections

will create the auspices under which all the political parties should work together.

The Khmer Rouge have already declared their objection to the elections.

Therefore, I believe that they are not going to stay under the auspices of the new

constitution.

So we will certainly have problems between the group of political parties under the

auspices of the constitution and the Khmer Rouge who will then be isolated. But this

is a very dangerous situation for Cambodia, and if we are not careful it might lead

to splitting Cambodia in two.

The 20 parties must recognize the new constitution as the result of the common endeavor

and respect it. And the one party which has abandoned the process must be regarded

as an outlaw.

The international community must recognize the new government that comes out of the

elections. They cannot afford to recognize two parties, the new government and the

Khmer Rouge. That would be tantamount to recognition of the partitioning of Cambodia.

In principle the newly-elected government, which represents the sovereignty of the

country, cannot afford to control only 80 or 90 percent of the territory. The government

must control all of the territory. So in concrete terms, if there is some fighting

it will not be called a civil war. It will be a kind of fighting between the insurgent

forces and the newly recognized government, like the situation which prevailed some

years ago in Thailand and Malaysia. We will take steps by economic or by other means

to win over the Khmer Rouge or the people under the Khmer Rouge.

But what happens if FUNCINPEC ends up in power and they draw a constitution that

gives Prince Sihanouk the powers he desires and the prince then invites the Khmer

Rouge into the so-called national reconciliation government?

Well, I wouldn't like to comment at the moment. Because at that time it would be

the right of the winning party to do whatever it wants. But if it dares to take such

an action, it will also have to accept the responsibility for that action. I don't

want to make any comment about that party supposedly winning.

Prince Sihanouk has been the major proponent of a government of national reconciliation.

What role do you therefore envisage for the prince, if CPP wins?

As far as we are concerned we continue to regard Prince Sihanouk as having a very

important role before and after the elections. After the new government has been

set up, there will certainly be arrangements for a presidential election. And I feel

Prince Sihanouk should be elected president. CPP has no presidential candidate.

Given that the Khmer Rouge have made a mockery of the peace process and given

that their behaviour has not come as a surprise to you, do you feel angry at the

international community in general and China and America in particular for insisting

that the Khmer Rouge be included in the peace process?

Well, I am not angry at anyone at all because there was a need for a political solution.

I am only a little disappointed that despite our understanding and the efforts of

the international community, the Khmer Rouge continue their madness. And the question

is that no-one has taken action against this madness.

You may notice that the Khmer Rouge have started all over again their genocide-compare

what they have done so far to the U.N. convention on the prevention and the punishment

of the crimes of genocide.

Every day the Cambodian people have been victims of the Khmer Rouge attacks, and

UNTAC staff also have been victims of the Khmer Rouge. But, so far no-one has given

any consideration on how to prevent these violent acts by the Khmer Rouge.

In some instances we were forced to use our right of self-defense to protect the

population and in order to protect the lives of UNTAC. But in doing so we were blamed

for taking this action and were accused of being equally responsible for ceasefire

violations.

I am more disappointed that some people believe that by behaving in a more flexible

way towards the Khmer Rouge, they hope to bring peace back to Cambodia. They did

not dare to condemn, to blame the Khmer Rouge. And yet they went as far as to accuse

me of being too severe, or harsh,towards the Khmer Rouge. They did not dare to blame

the Khmer Rouge for their past crimes just because of the need for peace and national

reconciliation. But at least we must have the courage to blame the Khmer Rouge for

the recent acts of violence and genocide. Given all this, I'm a bit worried that

after the election they would recognize the newly-elected government and at the same

time they will continue to recognize the existence of the Khmer Rouge. And this is

very dangerous for our people. This would lead to the splitting up of Cambodia.

On the subject of violence, your party has been accused of murdering political

opponents, and FUNCINPEC claims that the orders for these politically motivated attacks

come from the top, from what they call the parallel government consisting of such

figures as Chea Sim, Sar Kheng, Sin Son etc. How do you respond to these accusations?

We have been victimized by this kind of situation being painted by other parties

over the last four or five months. Now the situation is very clear. Now I am waiting

for UNTAC to cooperate with us in order to investigate acts of violence which have

been committed by FUNCINPEC and the Khmer Rouge. Now we have at our disposal enough

evidence,that people of the rank of general and colonel committed the crimes.

I sent a letter to Akashi, and then a few days ago, I personally met him and asked

him to pursue this investigation. Perhaps you have noticed that since we have evidence

of these crimes the number of acts of violence has been reduced.

If they throw hand grenades into their own political offices and blame this on us,

what can we do? So, right now we have a lot of evidence and quite a number of witnesses.

If UNTAC fails to take action, we will take action ourselves and issue arrest warrants.

You may interview three former FUNCINPEC generals who committed these crimes. [Uch

Kiman, Hun Sen's spokesman, described the three as Gen. Cam Rath, Gen. Su Kim Sin

and Gen. Kim Hang]

FUNCINPEC creates a story from nothing. They just fabricate a story, write a report

and lodge a complaint with UNTAC just to make an accusation against us. And according

to revelations made by a former party representative in Phnom Penh, FUNCINPEC has

already infiltrated about 800 trained agents into a number of provinces and among

them there are quite a number of Khmer Rouge agents. I am one of the targets of their

attacks.

So FUNCINPEC has 800 infil-trators, who also have been infiltrated by Khmer Rouge

agents, and they are out to assassinate you?

Yes. I am a target of assassination. This has been confirmed by a FUNCINPEC general,

Gen. Cam Rath. He also confirmed that there have been some attempts at assassinating

CPP leaders.

So is a coalition with FUNCINPEC out of the question?

What we need is honesty and sincerity towards one another. If they recognize their

mistakes and if they do not make an alliance with the Khmer Rouge to commit terrorist

attacks and economic sabotage, of course we would understand and our doors are always

open. But we are not only thinking in terms of the possibilities of coalition with

FUNCINPEC or any of the other big parties. So far there may be two thirds of all

the 20 parties who might be in a position to cooperate with us. Even a political

party with not a single seat in the National Assembly we might invite that party

to come with us, if they would like to.

Coalition is comparable to a husband and wife. Now if both of you want to sleep in

the same bed then you have to have cooperation.

If you don't agree with each other you cannot cooperate. It would be very dangerous

if you sleep in the same bed with someone who tries to stab you in the back, just

like FUNCINPEC has been doing during the past year.

Most of the problems facing the peace process have been created by the Cambodian

parties and the Khmer Rouge in particular, but where do you think that UNTAC has

gone wrong?

Every one of us realizes that all problems so far have been created by the Khmer

Rouge. They have not implemented the Paris agreements. We should not blame UNTAC

for this problem. Because UNTAC has been performing its duty according to its mandate.

The mandate was not to fight but to maintain peace.

But UNTAC has not deployed enough of its forces.

For instance when UNAMIC was there and then later on a number of deployments might

have been made in a number of places. Also, after the U.N. Security Resolution mandating

UNTAC to deploy the checkpoints along all the borders with neighboring countries

to stop the trading of oil or the exporting of gems, UNTAC has failed to implement

this.

So far UNTAC has been able to exercise its mandate on our party which is implementing

the Paris agreements. And in some cases, UNTAC overreacted using their rights to

undertake criminal inquiries and using their helicopters to raid our district offices.

But so far UNTAC has not exercised these kinds of courageous acts when it comes to

KR zones or deploying checkpoints along the Thai Cambodian border. However, I understand

the problems that Mr. Akashi and UNTAC have faced. But they should not make use of

the understanding that I have shown in order to go beyond what we accepted. I told

Mr. Akashi this.

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