During his final speech before taking a month-long speaking sabbatical to coincide with the campaign period, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a warning to anti-CNRP vandals and vowed to hunt them down.
Speaking to some 10,000 people at the inauguration of a Buddhist temple in Batheay district in Kampong Cham province, the premier denied any Cambodian People’s Party involvement in tearing down and spray-painting 16 opposition signboards in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces last week. He then called on the perpetrators to turn themselves in, and promised to go after the delinquents for as long as it took or, conversely, reward them if they surrendered.
“My estimation was that this situation of tearing down political party signboards was not [by] a member of the CPP, and the CPP has no reason to do so,” Hun Sen said. “This case will not be ignored, even if it takes a 10-year investigation. And I would like to appeal to those individual perpetrators to come in and confess, and they will not be handcuffed, and will receive a huge reward from me if that will mean a faster surrender.”
Hun Sen went on to admonish police to protect any suspects they may identify, saying that the perpetrators would be at risk of being murdered in an attempt to prevent their evidence from coming to light.
“The case allegedly implicates the authorities and activists of the ruling party, therefore there needs to be an investigation to restore the honour of the authorities, even if it takes one month, one year, two years, three years or 10 years,” the premier said. “Whoever it is, they have to take responsibility, even if it’s member of the CPP.”
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, called on the CPP to take action to arrest those responsible, rather than simply making proclamations.
“The Ministry of Interior has to arrest the perpetrator before [Hun Sen] sends out his mass message irresponsibly,” said Sovann. “I am not accusing anyone, but the ruling party is the strongest competitor of the CNRP, so the ruling party has to take responsibility.”
In his remarks, Hun Sen went on to reiterate his intent to refrain from public speeches during the official campaign period – starting Thursday – leading up to the July 28 elections, and called on authorities to maintain the so-far violence-free political environment.
“Within three days, the electoral campaign will kick off, and all levels of authorities are to maintain security and public order in order to ensure a smooth, transparent, and non-violent election campaign by all political parties,” Hun Sen said, before noting that an unnamed woman and her children were attempting to import pepper spray into Cambodia from the US.
The premier called on the American authorities to investigate.