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Kem Sokha promises not to bow to threats

Days after Prime Minister Hun Sen alluded to stripping opposition members of parliamentary leadership roles, Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy head Kem Sokha announced that he takes the threats as a sign of a job well done.

Speaking to hundreds of people in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district on Saturday, Sokha affirmed that poking the bear is part of the opposition’s job. “Some people asked when I was threatened, was I scared or not. I would like to tell all of you about politics: When our competitors react, it means that we have done well and [we] have to do more [criticism]. But if our competitors praise us, [we] have to be fearful,” Sokha said.

The first deputy president of the National Assembly’s harsh censure of the ruling party during previous provincial forums drew Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ire last week. During a speech in the capital, Hun Sen warned Sokha that he should “not to go out and insult others” and that if criticism of the Cambodian People’s Party continues outside the arena of the National Assembly, Sokha could be voted out of his deputy presidency position.

At one of his outspoken public forums in Preah Sihanouk last month, Sokha railed against the ruling party for handing out coastal state property as economic land concessions for private companies and party members who have not developed the area.

“Recently, because we are busy creating a new electoral institution or [National Election Committee], the land dispute problems of the people have not been resolved properly. But, from 2015 on, it is time to take on big land dispute cases for the people, especially all the cases of national property along the coast in Preah Sihanouk,” Sokha said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan accused Sokha of being a rabblerouser, making problems, rather than resolving them through the appropriate government channels.

“[We] cannot take rebel behaviour from Excellency Kem Sokha,” Siphan said. “Please come to debate in parliament. Parliament is the proper place for advocacy.”

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