Opposition leader-in-exile Sam Rainsy took to the airwaves over the weekend to detail what he said was Prime Minister Hun Sen’s direct involvement in attempts to split the CNRP.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia aired on Saturday, Rainsy said that the premier had at various points courted both himself and his deputy, Kem Sokha.
“In 2015, Mr Hun Sen – I refer to him by name – he came to talk with me saying . . . ‘Both of us can work together, but I do not want to work with [Sokha]’,” Rainsy said.
“If I gave up Kem Sokha, then I would be comfortable; I would have everything I want.”
Reached yesterday, Rainsy said that when he refused to split his party, the premier made similar overtures to Sokha, who likewise refused.
Both have since been threatened with legal action, forcing Rainsy to flee the country and leaving Sokha bunkered down at the CNRP headquarters, where he has lived for the past two months to avoid arrest in relation to cases stemming from recorded conversations with his purported mistress.
The CNRP was formed in 2012 by a merger of Rainsy’s Sam Rainsy Party and Sokha’s Human Rights Party. However, it has sometimes been an uneasy alliance, observers have noted.
While the CNRP and its leaders have in the past accused the ruling party of trying to exploit divisions within the party, it is the first time Rainsy has directly implicated Hun Sen.
But Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said Rainsy’s suggestion that the premier was behind a plot to divide and conquer the opposition was a fabrication.
“[Hun Sen] has never spoken untruthfully. He says ‘one is one’ and ‘two is two’, not like Sam Rainsy,” Eysan said. “[Rainsy] is good at creating stories. He wants to highlight himself and put blame on others. His political behaviour is a flip-flop.”
Political analyst Ou Virak questioned whether this latest episode in politicking would have any impact on the Cambodian people.
“The population is numb and, in a way, frustrated with the political class and the political elite,” he said.
“There are signs that people are listening less to politics on both sides and more to people like Kem Ley. That’s why the funeral [yesterday] was sending a strong message that people are not happy with the political class.”