The Cambodian People’s Party yesterday instructed its provincial officials to monitor opposition leaders on trips to the provinces and report any “insults” or “attacks” against the ruling party.
The CPP Central Committee directive, signed by party secretary-general Say Chhum, makes particular mention of Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha, who Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly accused of undermining the current detente between the parties, dubbed the “culture of dialogue”.
The document instructs all CPP provincial and city party committee heads to “follow up, listen and note clearly” any “insult or attack” against the CPP or its leaders by CNRP leaders and then make a report to the Central Committee.
Giving examples of what to listen out for, it states: “such words as ‘yuon head, Khmer body’, ‘communist dictators’, ‘yuon puppets’, ‘national betrayers’, ‘nation sellers’, ‘thief chiefs’ and other insulting language”.
Yuon, while a commonly used word for Vietnamese, is considered offensive by some.
In recent months, Hun Sen has frequently censured Sokha for insulting the CPP. At the same time, however, he has championed the “culture of dialogue”, and forged closer ties with CNRP president Sam Rainsy, which some observers have suggested may be a strategy to divide the opposition leaders.
On Tuesday – a day after ordering Say Chhum to lead an investigation into opposition members who “routinely” insult the ruling party – the PM leaked a text message exchange with Rainsy in which he warned him to stop Sokha’s criticism.
Speaking in Pursat last week, Hun Sen said: “In the culture of dialogue we must respect each other, be honest with each other, not insult each other, not threaten each other and also give value to each other.”
Responding yesterday, CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith affirmed his party’s right to constructively criticise the ruling party, saying there was a distinction between criticism to resolve problems and attacks.
“His Excellency Kem Sokha and His Excellency Sam Rainsy have never used insulting words to anyone,” he said.
Kampong Cham Governor Lun Lim Thai, the president of the CPP in the province, yesterday confirmed receiving orders to monitor CNRP leaders but noted recent positive relations between the parties had made strong insults rare.
“We do not have the intention to bother them; we just listen to them and report to the leaders,” he said. “We accept the criticism if it means improving what is wrong.”