Appealing for calm months before the national elections, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday directed members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to distance themselves from heated political attacks launched during the campaign season.
Speaking to thousands of villagers and new youth members of the party during a groundbreaking ceremony for a pagoda in the Tbong Khmum district of Kampong Cham province, Hun Sen said members should avoid responding angrily to criticism of the CPP, as responding in such a manner could adversely affect the view of the party in the minds of voters.
“I would like to send a message to all party members, that now there is a campaign to defame, discredit and insult by the other political parties, and the heat increases from day to day, but we need not verbally counterattack and provoke an argument,” he said.
Though the premier did not specifically call out any group by name, the message seemed tailor-made for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, the only political force muscular enough to bump heads with the CPP in the July 28 national elections.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the CNRP, said that “when the ruling CPP has a strong reaction to our political message, such as the promise to increase salaries for the armed forces and civil servants, it means that the CPP fails to resolve the problem.”
According to Hun Sen, there were a whopping 50 political parties registered with the Ministry of Interior in the run-up to the election.
He also said he was “proud” of being involved in the fighting against the Khmer Rouge, and that in the upcoming election, it’s important to elect someone – presumably meaning himself – who can “hold the steering wheel of the country.”
Discounting verbal attacks, Koul Panha, executive director of local election monitor the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he had not seen a single report of politically motivated violence ahead of the elections thus far.