Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday denied a “rift” among top leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and rejected claims that Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were set to be removed from their positions as rumours spread by “gangsters”.
The prime minister’s statement was made after rumours began spreading on Facebook that the CPP president was set to remove Sar Kheng and Say Chhum – CPP co-vice presidents – from their respective positions at the upcoming party congress. Hun Sen accused opposition groups of originating the rumours.
The prime minister had previously said the CPP will hold its three-day congress between December 18-20.
Speaking to nearly 20,000 garment workers from 23 factories in Kampong Speu province’s Samrong Tong district, the prime minister labelled those spreading false information as “gangsters”, “evil”, and “stupid”.
He also alluded to the fact that he believed former members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) originated the rumours when he told the crowd that incidents such as these are why the CNRP met its demise.
Though the prime minister did not name anyone specifically as the author of the Facebook posts, he was likely referring to pro-Rainsy Facebook activist Chham Chhany.
On Tuesday, Chhany posted on Facebook claiming he had received information from an “internal CPP source” that at the next party congress, Hun Sen will replace Sar Keng as CPP vice president with his oldest son Hun Manet, while his position as Interior Minister will be given to his youngest son Hun Many.
Chhany claimed that Sar Kheng will then be appointed National Assembly president, while current president Heng Samrin would replace Say Chhum as Senate president.
No mention was made as to whether Say Chhum would receive a new role.
“One gangster has spread rumours that in the [upcoming] party congress, Hun Sen will replace Sar Kheng and Say Chhum,” the prime minister said.
He also refuted details that he is scheduled to visit China this weekend, at which point Kheng and Chhum would stage a party coup and block his return.
“There was also a rumour saying that when Hun Sen visits China on December 14 he might not be able to return to Cambodia because Sar Kheng and Say Chhum will put measures in place to prevent him from returning."
“The evil man! On December 14 I will go to Koh Kong and on December 15, I will give a speech in Koh Kong province. I am not going to China. If you are not good at telling lies, then why do you tell lies? You are not good at telling lies, that’s why it [the CNRP] was dissolved,” he said.
He rejected the rumour of a “rift” among senior CPP officials, saying they had worked together for over four decades.
“I am in the country, and such things will not happen. Wait and see! The CPP is smart . . . having stayed with each other for 40 years we have not got any rifts,” he stressed.
Hun Sen also made reference to the ongoing internal conflict in Cambodia’s former opposition group the CNRP, telling them that if they wished to “insult their members, they can do it”.
Despite officially being dissolved within the Kingdom, the outlawed group continues its activities abroad. On December 3, Cambodia National Rescue Movement leader Sam Rainsy was controversially named the new “acting president” of the CNRP.
The appointment came much to the ire of the party’s pro-Kem Sokha stalwarts who lambasted the decision and branded it a coup, as Sokha is at home on bail on treason charges and not incommunicado.