Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday slammed the Funcinpec party’s promise to pay off the personal debts of Cambodians if it won the July 29 national elections as “deceitful”.
He also derided the party’s claim to be the only one able to protect the Kingdom’s monarchy as a “disgrace to the monarchy”, saying only his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) could do so.
Speaking to 16,000 workers from 10 garment factories in Kandal province on Wednesday morning, Hun Sen said he was surprised when he heard that Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, had made such an election promise.
“I am very surprised that someone would say they would pay off all the people’s debts. This is deceitful,” he said.
While not naming Prince Ranariddh, the premier claimed “that man” had written to him asking to borrow $1.35 million, promising to pay him back in July.
“Just a few weeks ago, [he] wrote to borrow money from me, but now he has promised to pay the debts that people all over the country owe,” Hun Sen said. “Which nation has ever done that?”
He said that because Cambodia was a poor country, it had to depend on foreign loans to develop its infrastructure, and so he had never imagined a political party could make such a promise.
“Oh my God! Where can you get the money, Your Highness? Did you take the wrong drug? Only a fraud could have said that,” Hun Sen exclaimed.
He said even his ruling CPP could not make such a promise, so it had focused on increasing the minimum wage.
He further mocked Funcinpec by saying that not even US President Donald Trump or Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad could do so.
“Such deceit should not be used for the sake of getting votes as it could lead to people borrowing more money because they think somebody is waiting to pay their loans for them.
“I suggest that those who use this as propaganda stop doing so because it could ruin people,” the premier said.
Hun Sen went on to criticise the party for calling itself the only defender of the monarchy, saying the claim is “ridiculous” and “a disgrace to the monarchy”.
“Even members of the royal family do not have the ability to protect the monarchy,” he said. Some of them, such as Sisowath Sirik Matak, Hun Sen said, had even tried to abolish Cambodia’s monarchy as part of the Lon Nol government of the 1970s that deposed Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
“Only the CPP has the ability to protect the throne and the constitutional monarchy. Some people call their party ‘royalist’ just for political propaganda. It is a disgrace to the country’s monarchy.”
Funcinpec lawmaker and spokesperson Nheb Bun Chin said his party’s promise to settle the people’s debts was not “deceitful” but a Funcinpec policy.
“This policy is something we can execute. Funcinpec, as Samdech Krom Preah [Prince Ranariddh] said, guarantees we will honour our words and do it for the people if we win the coming elections,” he said.
He said the policy focused on providing assistance to poor people who owe less than $3,000 to banks or microfinance institutions, and that the party had experience of governing, having won the 1993 national elections.
“We do everything according to the law. A promise made by a small party or a person cannot be trusted, but we used to rule the country and brought peace and justice to Cambodia. We have not ruled since. But the people can try by voting for us,” he said Bun Chin went on to defend his party’s claim that Funcinpec was the only royalist party in the country.
“We have been a royalist party since [becoming a political party in] 1993. If a party was born just a few months ago, it is wrong to call itself ‘royalist’, but Funcinpec has existed since 1993 and stands for neutrality and legitimacy,” he said.
Meas Nee, a political analyst, called the Funcinpec policy “unrealistic” and “charismatic propaganda”.
“With debts at about $4 billion in microloans to families and involving more than 52 microfinance institutions, it is not an easy solution,” he told The Post.