Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned opposition leader Sam Rainsy that he may have painted himself into a corner with promises made to both his supporters and current civil servants, a move he maintained could have potentially violent consequences.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen criticised recent statements made by the Cambodia National Rescue Party president in which he insisted his party would not remove any civil servants from their jobs while also pledging to open the door for more CNRP supporters to join the public sector.
Hun Sen claimed upholding those promises would be impossible, and would place Rainsy in a position with no good alternatives.
“If you go into the river, you meet the crocodile; if you go onto the land, you meet the tiger,” he said, quoting a Khmer proverb.
Instead, Hun Sen suggested a CNRP victory would result in current top officials being ousted, which he warned would cause an armed insurrection.
As part of that warning, he named National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun as two officials who would lead such rebellion should they or other key figures be axed.
Savoeun and Saroeun declined to comment yesterday.
But CNRP spokesperson Yim Sovann yesterday rejected Hun Sen’s “groundless accusations”, saying they amounted to a deliberate attempt to “instigate” unrest among civil servants.
According to Sovann, rather than guarantee CNRP supporters civil service jobs, his party only seeks to implement a standardised recruitment process that would open up the sector to the highest quality candidates, regardless of their political affiliations.
“We would like to make clear that the civil service is neutral; they do not belong to a political party,” he said. “[Under the CNRP], new recruits would have to take an exam to join the civil service, and the exam must be transparent, with no corruption.”
Sovann said that such a policy would only be implemented at the recruitment stage and therefore would not put current civil servants’ jobs under threat.
Hun Sen’s statements are just the latest example of him raising the spectre of war in Cambodia should the ruling Cambodian People’s Party lose power. Last month, he claimed the arrest of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour over a Facebook post “averted serious chaos”.
Yet despite the veiled coup threats, Hun Sen maintained his commitment to the democratic process, as he rebuffed suggestions made in the Australian media that his eldest son Hun Manet is being groomed to succeed him.
“A democratic country depends on elections, it does not involve transferring [power],” he said.