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Hun Sen slams ‘foolish’ boycott plan by CNRP

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Hun Sen poses for photographs with garment workers during a visit to a factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district on Thursday. TANG CHHIN Sothy/AFP

Hun Sen slams ‘foolish’ boycott plan by CNRP

Caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday slammed the leadership of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) over their “failed” election boycott campaign.

He told a group of thousands of garment factory workers that “such a foolish act” showed “they couldn’t even run a business let alone a whole country”.

The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president went on, at the meeting in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district, to support Interior Minister Sar Kheng in his call to end divides in the Kingdom between people who voted in Sunday’s national elections and those who did not.

Hun Sen said: “The ‘Clean Fingers’ campaign failed. Over 82 percent of Cambodians nationwide voted, and this shows that people fully support democracy.

“[The CNRP] ran its [boycott] campaign and . . . [made] the wrong mathematical calculations. This is just one of a number of foolish acts that shows they cannot become successful political leaders."

“[Such an action] shows that they could not even manage a company or a factory, let alone think about leading their party to political success and control of the country.”

Hun Sen said those who did not vote abstained because they believed the call to “incitement” by the former opposition party.

“People who support the democratic process are those who voted, and those who did not vote abstained because they believed in the incitement by [the CNRP] and do not support the democratic process.

“They voted for other parties or spoiled their ballot – but [political] freedom must exist,” he said.

On Wednesday Interior Minister Sar Kheng appealed to the public, authorities at all levels, and members of political parties to end the animosity between those who voted and those who abstained.

Using his speech on Thursday to add his weight to the call, Hun Sen said such divisions could cause conflict at the local level.

“I would like to plead to our people not to discriminate between those who voted and those who did not. The turnout at the elections was 82 percent, and it was only 18 percent of people who did not vote,” he said.

“Understand one other – the 18 percent should not insult, and the 82 percent should understand that the people who did not vote did so for different reasons – whether they were personal or political.

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Cambodians line up to vote in the 2018 national elections in Phnom Penh on Sunday. AFP

“So please do not discriminate and hate each other because this might cause conflicts in villages, communes and other communities ... and [people must] live with each other,” he said.

Former CNRP lawmaker Cheam Channy said the former opposition party’s campaign calling for a boycott of the elections had not failed as Hun Sen said.

“It was not a failure because a lot of people spoiled their ballot, and [a lot of] the people who voted did not do so happily,” he said.

‘Not a true victory’

He continued that he did not believe the declaration by the National Election Committee that the voter turnout was 82 percent. He claimed that people felt compelled to vote, and this did not indicate a true election victory.

“[Winning an election when people are] going to vote through coercion and intimidation is not a true victory,” he said.

Political analyst Hang Pitou said it is difficult at this stage to determine whether or not the Clean Fingers campaign had actually failed.

“[The CPP] says the boycott campaign failed, but I feel it is hard to say whether it did or not because many people find the [election] results hard to accept.

He also said he strongly supported Hun Sen’s appeal to the people to heal political divisions after the elections.

“But we will continue to wait and see whether the declaration is effective or not. In the past, the government issued similar declarations against political discrimination at the local level."

“The call has always turned out to be ineffective,” he said.

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