In a speech at a graduation ceremony on Koh Pich yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen mocked – without naming – the newly formed Cambodian National Rescue Party for its threat earlier this week to boycott upcoming national elections.
The CNRP has said that it will refuse to engage in next year’s general election if the National Election Committee is not reformed.
“There is a political party refusing to participate in the 2013 elections,” Hun Sen said, noting that an election without opposition would be “easy”, and that his ruling Cambodian People’s Party would gladly accept their share of the votes.
“They threaten to boycott the elections, because they may have a shortage of budget,” he added.
Yesterday, however, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann responded by reiterating the opposition’s threat.
“The reform of the NEC is not only the concern of the opposition party, but also a concern of [UN] special rapporteur Surya Subedi’s annual report, which ... discusses the reform of the NEC,” said Sovann, referring to Subedi’s observations of a month ago.
“It is not necessary to participate in the upcoming election if the NEC will not reform,” Sovann added. “There is no use in an election led by the same person where the NEC is still a tool used by the ruling party.”
Meanwhile, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua issued a statement yesterday appealing to Cambodian-Americans to sign a petition calling on US President Barack Obama to cancel a planned trip to Cambodia.
“We urge you to sign a petition calling on him to cancel his trip unless he receives binding assurances that free and fair elections will be held in Cambodia in July 2013 in line with the United Nations’ recommendations for thorough electoral reform,” Sochua wrote.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said that it was not the NEC’s place to enact reforms, and that any decisions regarding such reforms should be left to the government.
The Ministry of Interior has already said that the NEC will remain unchanged.
The premier also took the opportunity yesterday to announce that he will postpone by a few days a planned visit to distribute land titles in Pursat province, saying that current weather patterns make the helicopter flight too dangerous, and that it was not worth risking his life.
“It is not easy if the Prime Minister dies, and Cambodia’s constitution says clearly on that point, when the Prime Minister’s position is open, all ministers have to be reappointed,” he said. “So it means that if I die, all of you will lose your positions as ministers and deputy prime minister.”
“It is more difficult than if the King dies,” he continued, adding that “no one isn’t afraid of dying.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected]