Prime Minister Hun Sen used the inauguration of the Lower Sesan II Dam yesterday as an opportunity to lash out at “unqualified” political analysts, defend his reaction to “internal interference” and repeat promises to rule Cambodia for another 10 years.
In an apparent reference to his recent hardline tack against the US – which he has accused of seeking to foment revolution to topple his government – Hun Sen claimed political analysts were wrong to say that he was required to consult with the National Assembly over such matters.
The premier claimed it was his right as prime minister to respond to comments from an unnamed ambassador, likening it to his authority to take control during an invasion of Cambodian territory.
“If there’s an invasion, there would be no need to have a National Assembly meeting. All meetings are suspended. There’s no assembly meeting at all,” he said.
“I just reacted to a foreign country interfering into Cambodian internal affairs. They ask me to ask the National Assembly. It’s never ever,” he continued.
The constitution, in fact, specifies that the National Assembly must vote on all treaties as well as declarations of war, and makes no exceptions in the case of foreign interference or invasion. Only in cases of a “territorial occupation”, in which the assembly is unable to meet, is a state of emergency automatically extended.
Anti-US rhetoric from the government stepped up after opposition leader Kem Sokha was charged with “treason” earlier this month over a 2013 video in which he says he received advice on political strategy from America.
The US Embassy declined to comment further yesterday, referring only to its previous statement from Ambassador William Heidt in which he said the allegations against the United States have been made “without a shred of serious or credible evidence”.
Hun Sen yesterday went on to say that political analysts shouldn’t attempt to analyse the constitution, adding that they lacked the abilities and qualifications of his own sons, who received degrees from military academies.
“Constitutional interpretation is not the right of the analyst,” he said.
“Your capabilities are not even equal to my children. Your PhD is not equal to my children. Don’t advise me. You’re good, but you don’t have a doctorate degree in the military. It’s different at this point. Don’t play with Hun Sen, who is the father. Play with my three sons,” he went on.
Analyst Lao Mong Hay, who has criticised Hun Sen in the past for bypassing the National Assembly in matters of policy, said he couldn’t be sure that Hun Sen was referring to him, but maintained that political commentary was the “right of expression” of every analyst.
“They are knowledgeable people and concerned people who contribute to understanding,” he said.
Mong Hay called Hun Sen’s comments “narrow minded”, and repeated his stance that Hun Sen must consult with the National Assembly before making significant foreign policy decisions.
“If there is such a huge event, the National Assembly needs to be informed,” he said.
Continuing his speech, Hun Sen vowed to live until 2047 and to lead the country until 2027.
“I believe I can live at least 30 more years, therefore I can continue as prime minister for 10 more years. It is not difficult for me,” the 65-year-old said, calling for people to continue to support the ruling party.
Mong Hay, however, said the premier’s promise of longevity could be an attempt to maintain stability amid rumours of failing health. As for his ambitions, he said, “The greed of humans has no limit for both power and wealth.
“When he gets a portion of power he wants to get more power. For wealth, when he gets 1 million, he wants to get 2 million, and then 5 million,” Mong Hay said.
Meanwhile, self-exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy noted it was not Hun Sen’s decision alone to continue to rule.
“It is up to the Cambodian people to decide – through democratic elections – who will run the country and for how long. Cambodia is not the private property of anybody or any family,” he said.