Prime Minister Hun Sen repeated his insistence that Cambodia is self-sufficient and does not need the support of outside countries on Saturday, while continuing to equate “peace” with development.
During the opening ceremony of the sixth Sea Festival in Kep, the premier called on citizens to “unite together to protect peace”, which he seemed to contend is under threat due to foreign interference.
Throughout a crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party that saw the group dissolved and its leader Kem Sokha arrested, the government has accused the US, the EU and some international NGOs and media outlets of backing a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Since the CNRP’s dissolution, the US and EU have pulled funding for the upcoming national elections, and the former has applied visa sanctions on certain government officials.
On Saturday, Hun Sen reiterated that Cambodia can stand on its own.
“Cambodia is not the one who needs anyone’s oxygen to breath. Cambodia is like a person who has two nostrils and one mouth to breathe,” he said. “We don’t need any country or any group to destroy peace in our country anymore,” he said.
In separate speech on Saturday at the inauguration of a new high school in Kep, the premier declared Kep the “number one” province of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, claiming over 90 percent of the population supported him.
In the June commune elections, the CPP won 67.7 percent of the votes in the province.
“I feel that people here receive happiness and development from my leadership and the ruling CPP,” he said, before announcing that he is considering creating a new university in Kep to attract students from coastal areas.
Lun Phon, former head of the CNRP working group in Kep, said the commune elections had ended the ruling party monopoly there, with the opposition securing seven commune councillor seats.
He added that if the CNRP had not been dissolved, he expected a strong showing in the national elections.
Phon also rejected a claim made by the premier during his speech that “with no peace” there could be no human rights and no democracy.
“I think peace is only on paper. Even if there is no fighting or shooting, the peace in mind and democracy is not in the heart of the people. Freedom of expression is very restricted. So what [Prime Minister Hun Sen] said about ‘peace’ is impossible, as instead people are worried and afraid . . . and there is no calm in their hearts,” he said.
Political analyst Meas Nee said that while he agreed there could be no development without peace, true calm could not exist before the CPP and CNRP reconcile. “If there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace,” he said.
Nee added that Cambodia still needs partnerships with foreign countries. It cannot, he added, survive with only Chinese support to the exclusion of the West.
“If we don’t need oxygen from foreign countries, then at least we need to do businesses with them . . . We cannot say that we can live without being dependent on other countries. We need the investment; we need to work with the world,” he said.