Social and political analyst Lao Mong Hay on Tuesday called on King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath to grant Cambodia National Rescue Party (CRNP) co-founder Sam Rainsy a royal pardon.
Mong Hay also requested the King and Queen Mother to bestow the honorific “Samdech” on Rainsy, whom he called a “wise man”.
He made the request on Facebook a day after Rainsy said all politicians should retire at the age of 70 in order to give the younger generation the opportunity to lead the country.
“Fresh knowledge, fresh blood and fresh ideas are indispensable factors for good governance. They would push our country towards true development, which will benefit ordinary people,” the 70-year-old Rainsy said.
Mong Hay took to Facebook on Tuesday, saying: “His Excellency Sam Rainsy is a Cambodian dean, a wise man, a sage. The most revered King among the Cambodian people, please kindly pardon him and bestow the title of ‘Samdech’ on him.”
He said he believed Rainsy was deserving of a pardon and the title, hailing his role as someone with “great values and principles”.
“Please abandon all hostilities towards [Rainsy],” Mong Hay said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said he was not interested in Mong Hay’s request. “Only the prime minister has the privilege to make such a request. Sam Rainsy is still a convict,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Mong Hay’s request was “beyond belief”.
“Do not speak of [bestowing] a title [upon Rainsy]. He must first receive his sentence, which is the crucial thing for him. This request to the King . . . it’s like a dream. The honorific ‘Samdech’ [can only] be bestowed upon the highest political figures who qualify having made merit for the nation.
“The request is extremely political in nature and unbecoming for such an analyst, one deemed an intellectual and regarded as highly educated due to his doctorate,” he said.
In his defence, Mong Hay said Rainsy’s “lifetime work” deserved to be recognised.
“Who else has done more than Sam Rainsy, a person without power and public recourse? Who else has been physically attacked with hand grenades? Who else has ever been greeted by a huge mass of people such as on July 19, 2013 when he returned from his exile?
“Who took to the streets and led workers to demand better pay and working conditions? Who took the lead whenever workers and shopkeepers had trouble with corrupt authorities to defend their rights and interests? Who else has ever initiated a new political culture like when he proposed a culture of dialogue in 2014, an initiative which Hun Sen has claimed credit for?” he said.
Mong Hay claimed the CNRP had proposed better wages for workers and a higher allocation of resources to communes, which the ruling party later brought in.
“Personally I don’t like [Rainsy], but why should I let my feelings prevent me from appreciating his work for the country,” he said.