Caretaker prime minister Hun Sen used a meeting with 18,400 factory workers on Wednesday to predict that he would beat the record for being the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader.
He also used the platform to slam political opponent Sam Rainsy who he said had lost their latest war of words by failing to swear on his life over accusations that the July 29 national election turnout figures were inflated.
Hun Sen told the workers in Kampong Speu province: “I have been in power for 33 years now, and it is almost 34 years. Add five more years and it will be 39 years. Then add five more years and it will be 44 years, and that is the top of the world – Hun Sen breaks the record!” he joked.
Cameroonian president Paul Biya, 85, has been in charge of the impoverished African nation for 43 years.
Echoing repeated statements that he intends to remain in power for some time, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president also said in May that he will serve “not less than” another 10 years.
Former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker Ou Chanrath said Hun Sen’s prediction was not something for the country to be proud of.
“For the individual, he thinks it is an achievement worthy of pride, but for the democrat, a democratic country does not see this as something to be proud of.
“It should be an embarrassment instead because everything has been done only for power. In fact, not many people congratulate him over his holding power for so long,” Chanrath said.
In hitting out at Rainsy, Hun Sen declared that the Cambodia National Rescue Movement leader had “lost” by refusing to swear on his life and the lives of loved ones to prove the veracity of his allegations that the voter turnout figures for the July 29 national elections were inflated.
“[Rainsy] does not dare to swear so now [he has] lost. [Rainsy has] not dared to swear. He was on the radio the other day and he again did not dare to swear.
“Because [this oath] does not mean the life of just the two of us, but the lives of his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and [another] at least 100 people,” he said.
“[Rainsy does] not dare to swear because [this is the kind of man he is] – he can only insult others. If [Rainsy does] not dare to swear, what [is he afraid of]?” Hun Sen asked.
He also warned other former CNRP members that insulting him on Facebook might lead to legal action.
“I say that if this despicable group [remains], war will break out. They are absolutely terrible. [I say to them:] if you do not educate your subordinates to be moral, your group is the one causing the destruction of the people’s harmony and solidarity,” he said.
Political analyst Hang Pitou said he thought the call to swear an oath, and of “winning” or “losing”, was just a political game being played out.
What is important, he said, was that the continuing conflict between politicians is making the country as a whole lose out.
“Who wins or who loses over the oath is not important because the country is not about the two of them.
“If politicians conflict with each other, the ones who lose are the people – both former opposition party and ruling party leaders. If they keep playing this game, the people will suffer,” he said.
Chanrath said the back-and-forth over the oath was dead-end politics because it was a “pointless” gesture.
“It cannot be victory or failure because [making an] oath is pointless. If they arrange negotiations for the good of the country and to avoid international pressure, it would be better than calling each other out over swearing an oath.
“I think they should call each other for negotiations [because] if there is international pressure, it might severely affect the economy and political situation in Cambodia. I am not interested in the swearing of oaths,” he said.