Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday insisted he will not react to comments from a politician – seemingly Sam Rainsy – saying he had already made his position clear.
“Politics . . . I have stopped talking because I have already made everything clear. I want the other side to pay attention to what I said the last time . . . whether you understand it or not, it’s up to you."
“I won’t talk [about politics] anymore. I won’t respond to anyone,” he said when addressing some 20,000 factory workers in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district.
On November 11 last year, Rainsy, “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), initiated a bet with Hun Sen on CNRP president Kem Sokha’s freedom.
Rainsy said Sokha would be released any time between December 29 last year and March 3, and that he would end his political career should he lose the bet.
In response, Hun Sen accepted the wager and vowed to step down should he lose it. “I dare to bet with Sam Rainsy. If Kem Sokha were to be released [as Rainsy describes] I, Hun Sen, am willing to step down.
“But if Kem Sokha is not released between December 29, 2018 and March 3, 2019, Sam Rainsy must dare to surrender and immediately turn himself in for arrest,” he said.
‘We have to care’
In Takeo province on Wednesday, Hun Sen said: “Whoever wants to go and die anywhere, I don’t care. There are around 16 million compatriots in the country, and we find ways for them to have enough to eat, to put clothes on their backs, to have medicine and get thorough treatment. The treatment for factory workers is free.
“Having a house, transport, [home] appliances . . . these are what human beings need [in this age]. This is what we have to care about,” he said.
Hun Sen said he was not bothered about someone living 10,000km away and was better off listening to music.
He appealed to the workers to work hard and not cause trouble which could make factory owners relocate their businesses to other countries where the wages were lower.
Comparing Cambodian workers’ wages to that of Bangladesh, he said the workers there earned less than $100 a month while Cambodian workers got almost $190.
“Bangladesh is the same as Cambodia. In [December’s] elections, [Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] won a landslide victory just like the [ruling] Cambodian People’s Party did. But there were groups who condemned it."
“It is like this – if anyone won the election with a great majority, they [the opposition] don’t accept it. But she is like me – they don’t accept it, I don’t care. I just know that my citizens went to cast their ballots."
“She did not need to get recognition from the UN because there are no conditions that require it,” he said.
‘Show of strength’
Social analyst Meas Nee said this was the fourth time that Hun Sen has vowed not to respond to Rainsy. He said that he believed the prime minister would soon react to comments from Rainsy.
“This is not the first time [he has made such comments]. I can say this is the third or fourth time. But Rainsy always creates something and we sometimes see that Hun Sen cannot control his feelings [on Rainsy’s claims]."
“This is a natural characteristic of both leaders – one side likes to create something and the other reacts,” Nee said.
Rainsy lives in France to avoid court action on numerous criminal charges and a five-year sentence for conspiracy to forge public documents, using fake public documents and incitement causing chaos.
He has often claimed he will return to Cambodia but has as yet failed to do so.
Political analyst and general director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Kin Phea, said Hun Sen’s comments likely referred to Sam Rainsy. He said Hun Sen’s words were merely rhetoric and that he would again react to Rainsy depending on the issue.
The analyst said that by taking such a stance, Hun Sen was showing his strength by not bowing to international pressure.
“Hun Sen’s reaction is a show of strength that he will not bow to anyone. He won’t bow his head to international pressure or pressure from any politician. We have to understand Hun Sen’s character. He was the prime minister who went through decades of economic and military sanctions."
“But [despite it all] he struggled to provide everything [to run] the government, so he doesn’t need to respond to anyone. He wants to show that he is strong and that he has the power to control the political situation in Cambodia,” he said.