Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Sam Rainsy, is responsible for the divisions in his party by being “the poorest of leaders”, as the opposition figure again reached out to the EU.
The prime minister was speaking to more than 1,500 graduating Asia Euro University students at the National Institute of Education on Thursday.
“Someone said Hun Sen could not do anything [but] divide the other. I just would like to send a message that as you have allowed the other to divide you like this, you are not suitable as a leader. I am just politely advising you that you are the poorest [as you] allowed the other to divide [your party] while you were a leader."
“You are the poorest of leaders. You could not lead a small club or association, let alone a political party or even a country. I am not hitting out at you but just giving some advice. You have always said the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] was the one breaking up, so why are you divided? Your issues started with you smearing others,” Hun Sen said.
Hun Sen dismissed allegations his party was also divided and said such claims had existed for 40 years but were always proven wrong.
“If you think wrongly like this, you cannot win over the CPP. You must remember that you have always assessed the CPP wrongly like this . . . that’s why you have always been unsuccessful.”
Claiming the CNRP had been divided into camps its leader could not compromise with, Hun Sen raised the question: “How could you lead a government, how could you lead the armed forces?
“When you meet this person, you gossip about another person. [When you] meet that person, [you] gossip about this person. You are this kind of person, so how can you lead people?"
Meanwhile, CNRP co-founder Rainsy wrote an email to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, saying “the EU must push for the reinstatement of the CNRP”
He told Mogherini he had heard a rumour that CNRP president Kem Sokha would ask for political rehabilitation.
He said 118 high-ranking CNRP officials including Sokha had been banned from politics after the party was dissolved by a “violation of the Constitution”.
The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017 after Sokha was arrested for treason in September of the same year.
He said the “unbelievable” dissolution of the CNRP proved Hun Sen had destroyed democracy in Cambodia.
Sokha and the banned CNRP officials must demand the reinstatement of the CNRP and the automatic return of their political rights.
Rainsy said Hun Sen had misled the international community, especially the EU, by saying there was no need to revive the CNRP as Sokha would form a new party when freed of his charge.
Social analyst Meas Nee said he was not surprised by the recent allegation that Hun Sen had paid the nine banned CNRP officials to request political rehabilitation as the allegation was politically motivated.
“This is a move to gain political advantage. Such allegations of buying people have existed for a long time,” he said.
Nee said if Sokha was released and requested political rehabilitation, divisions in the CNRP would grow.
“There will be three groups – Kem Sokha, Sam Rainsy and those who form new parties. The [opposition] party will then become even weaker, something long desired by the ruling party.”
Nee said whether or not Sokha had his treason charge dropped, the CNRP must have clear plans.
“Plan A is [what to do] if [Sokha] is not released of his charge. Plan B is [what to do] if he is? “They also need to determine the strategies of its rival [the CPP]. Is there a deal being made behind the scenes? Sometimes, from the outside, it appears some oppose each other but actually work together."
“The most important thing is [to] maintain the value of solidarity. It doesn’t matter who tries to divide you, it depends on the opposition leaders themselves. If they are gullible, divisions will arise and disappoint CNRP supporters,” he said.