The list of ruling party candidates drawn from the families of high-ranking officials expanded again yesterday as Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the son of CPP stalwart Cheam Yeap will join his father on the ballot come July.
“Cheam Yeap’s son will also stand in Battambang province,” he said.
Speaking at the inauguration of a pagoda in Prey Veng, the premier took the opportunity to talk up the party’s newest strategy.
“It is not about nepotism and partisanship, but there must be resumption [from their parents to children],” he told the crowd of roughly several hundred villagers and monks.
The premier then offered his second endorsement in less than a month for Prey Veng candidate Sar Sokha, 33, the son of Minister of Interior Sar Kheng.
“I would like to keep my nephew here to stand in the upcoming election in order to protect all the achievements of his parent and his uncles, especially the CPP’s achievement, because we are old now,” Hun Sen said.
Sokha, Hun Sen said, was talented enough to have received a provincial governor appointment had he been of age.
“I was supposed to appoint him as a provincial governor, but he has not yet reached the [minimum] age. Before he gets there, let him sit on the National Assembly and gain skills on administration and management.”
The CPP became the first party to list yesterday at the start of the National Election Committee’s 15-day registration period. At least 10 of the candidates who registered yesterday were the children of CPP leaders, party cabinet chief Ork Kimhan told the Post on Sunday.
A son, Hun Many, and a son-in-law, DyVichea, of the premier’s are running in Kampong Speu and Svay Rieng provinces, respectively.
Political analysts have warned that the injection of new blood – loyal to specific members of the party – could unsettle senior members.
Hun Sen, for his part, had harsh words yesterday for those who would doubt the abilities of the new batch of politicians.
“If they look down on these youths, their political [life] will be finished. Therefore, let them look down at the youth.”
Speaking by phone, senior lawmaker Yeap confirmed yesterday that his son Cheam Chansophoan would be running this July.
Deputy Battambang governor Chansophoan, who also serves as the president of the CPP provincial youth federation, told the Post that he hadn’t heard the news, but he was thrilled to be able to serve his country.
“I had not been informed that I was listed to be a candidate; now that I know, it is very exciting,” he said. “I will fulfil my obligation in accordance with the party’s policy.”
Announcing that, as per usual, he would abstain from speaking during the month-long campaign period that precedes the July 28 elections, Hun Sen then offered a chilling account of the bloodshed that would ensue should he lose.
“There will be an internal war which will spread to a neighbouring country, because every day, they accuse the CPP of selling territorial sovereignty to the foreigner and they promised to fight to take the territorial sovereignty back,” he said in a likely reference to the Cambodian National Rescue Party.
Party president Sam Rainsy has long maintained that the ruling party government is quietly ceding territory to Hanoi. In 2009, Rainsy uprooted a border post in Svay Rieng province, saying they were improperly placed in order to encroach on Cambodian territory. That act and a subsequent publication of a map purporting to show the shrinking territory landed Rainsy defamation and incitement convictions and sent him into self-imposed exile, where he remains to this day.
Should the opposition win, warned Hun Sen, the country would “face new war.”
“It is necessary for [voters] in this circumstance to monitor the ruling political party leaders [to decide] whether it is on the right track or not,” he said.
“You can vote to change from peace to war, from stability to instability, or you can vote for peace, maintaining national development and maintaining every achievement that exists in your hand.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann called the claims little more than a scare tactic. Speaking to the Post following Hun Sen’s speech, Sovann insisted there was no chance of war.
“We solve [this problem] by peaceful means, legal means and international codes. I assure you that there is no war at all. There are 18 signatories to the Paris Agreement to guarantee that they must keep peace in Cambodia, so I assure you that there is no war at all,” he said.
The opposition also took offence at the premier’s claim that, should they take office, all previous achievements would be spitefully demolished.
“Only members of the CPP can provide huge support for the development of the pagodas in the country, therefore they [the opposition] say that the Buddhist monks cast the ballot for CPP only,” the premier said in his speech. “If they are going to win the elections, they will destroy every achievement of Hun Sen including pagodas and schools named Hun Sen.”
Speaking by phone, Sovann said the prime minister was unfairly laying claim to achievements that in actuality belonged to everyone.
“It doesn’t belong to the CPP, it belongs to the nation; it belongs to the people.”
Additional reporting by Abby Seiff