Leasers of Cambodian political parties on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition figure Sam Rainsy over a bet involving the “release” of Kem Sokha, describing it as “immoral” and “insulting” to the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president.
They called for “compromise” and “dialogue ” to “avoid a split in thenation”.
The reactions came after a war of words between the prime minister and Rainsy late last week regarding Sokha’s fate. Rainsy said Sokha would be released from “house arrest” between December 29, 2018, and March 3, 2019, something Hun Sen dismissed as impossible under the law.
Rainsy then offered the prime minister a bet on the prediction, which he accepted, with Hun Sen to step down and the Cambodia National Rescue Movement leader to turn himself in to authorities depending on who lost. Rainsy is currently living in France to avoid court action on criminal charges.
Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) leader Yang Saing Koma told The Post on Tuesday that Hun Sen and Rainsy should not use Sokha’s legal situation as the basis of a political bet. He urged a “compromise” to allow Sokha to be a free man and re-enter the political arena.
“I think they should not [take a] bet like this. They should think about compromising, to make Kem Sokha free and allow him back into politics to join the 2022 [commune] election [campaign]."
“We think that politics is not a game for them [to play] … it is about solving issues [facing Cambodians], not creating [sideshows] for people to follow,” Saing Koma said.
Khmer Rise Party (KRP) president Sok Sovann Vathana Sabong said Rainsy is “immoral” for calling on Hun Sen to accept the bet.
He defended as “correct”, the prime minister’s explanation on Sunday that he had no right to request royal pardons until court verdicts are final.
Sovann Vathana Sabong, who is a member of the National Assembly’s Consultation Forum said, “as a member of Consultation Forum, I think [the bet] is not right and politically immoral.
“The former opposition leader [Rainsy] is the one who initiated it. We want [Rainsy] to stop using his political partner [Sokha] like this because it is strongly insulting to Kem Sokha’s reputation.”
Khmer Will Party (KWP) president Kong Monika called for dialogue as Hun Sen and Rainsy’s bet is “not a good example” for people of the next generation.
“I think this strategy is not a good example for the next generation. Both veteran politicians [should] return to make a truce with each other and start a dialogue between Khmer and Khmer to avoid a spilt in the nation,” he said.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said he felt that Rainy and Hun Sen were using Sokha’s fate as a “game”.
He also called the bet “immoral”.
“I really regret that the country’s leader [Hun Sen] has used an individual’s freedom … someone who has already been treated unjustly, to be bet like this. It should not happen like this because [Hun Sen and Rainsy] are not normal people. They are [the prime minister] leader and the leader of the opposition,” Chanrath said.
He called both leaders to call off the bet, saying if they continued with it, it would bring “shame” to Cambodia.
“It is immoral ... as [Sokha] is a victim. First, it would affect him mentally, being used for a bet. Secondly, it brings shame to our nation because I have never seen any country’s leaders using the freedom of a person in a bet like this,” he said.
However, both Hun Sen and Rainy have defended the bet.
On Sunday, Hun Sen said his decision to accept the wager offered by Sam Rainsy did not violate the authority of the courts, while Rainsy claimed that by doing so, Hun Sen had “fallen into my trap” and revealed himself to be a dictator using the judiciary as a “political tool”.