Prime Minister Hun Sen has rejected an apology from Chea Poch regarding comments he allegedly made and instructed his lawyers to prepare legal procedures against the member of the Candlelight Party’s (CP) Standing Committee.

Hun Sen on May 21 posted to his Facebook page an apology from Poch and a letter from him rejecting a report by local media outlet Fresh News that he intended to oust the prime minister.

Poch can be heard in a 22-second voice message telling CP members that he has been in a “struggle” to “depose” Hun Sen since he was 19 years old.

“Since I entered politics at 19, many colleagues and leaders have died. With this pain, how seriously they have mistreated us, we know our goal. To be frank, my goal is to oust Hun Sen.”

However, in the letter to Hun Sen, Poch apologised and said his “struggle” referred only to democratic elections held every five years.

He said that during his 27 years of political activities with opposition parties, he had intended to promote and improve democracy, freedom and human rights in Cambodia.

He said he had also adhered to the principle of non-violence, and to the spirit of the Paris Peace Agreements of October 23, 1991, the Cambodian Constitution and the Kingdom’s laws.

“I deny the report by Fresh News of May 13, 2023, and the doctored 22-second audio clip saying my goal was to oust Hun Sen.

“I would like to make it emphatically clear that I have never had such an idea, or even just one thought as to what I have been accused of.

“What I have said so far was to strengthen the stance of opposition party activists in competing in free, fair and credible elections, and winning out over the ruling Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] led by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” the letter says.

In the other letter to Hun Sen, dated May 15, Poch says: “My speeches were rude and have affected the prime minister. I ask the prime minister to forgive me.”

In the letter, Poch says he had requested for Candlelight Party delegates to express themselves with politeness, and that he wished to apologise to Hun Sen in person.

However, the premier said he had rejected Poch’s apology and instructed his lawyers to begin proceedings, with them to wait until May 30 to hear any further explanations from Poch regarding the matter.

He said that Poch, instead of accepting the truth, was trying to protect his reputation by hitting out at the veracity of the Fresh News report.

“I have asked my lawyers to prepare legal proceedings against Chea Poch regarding two cases: one is a letter refuting a media report and the other what Poch has said,” Hun Sen said.

The prime minister said that while the word “depose” could refer to an election as Poch had argued, it could also mean a coup or colour revolution as had been carried out in some countries.

The end goal of “depose” was to topple a leader through any means possible, he contended.

“Poch could have used another word besides ‘depose’. However, Poch and his party have such poor manners and have developed an endless culture of revenge from top to bottom.

“I don’t accept the apology. What Poch should do for himself and his family members, he knows himself,” Hun Sen said.