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King urges citizens to vote as Hun Sen says Sihamoni’s message is a ‘slap’ to Sam Rainsy’s face

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King Norodom Sihamoni (left) greets Sam Rainsy during a meeting at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh in 2013. AFP

King urges citizens to vote as Hun Sen says Sihamoni’s message is a ‘slap’ to Sam Rainsy’s face

Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy has been given a slap in the face, after the King sent out a royal message calling on Cambodians to cast their votes in the July 29 national elections, says Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The royal message goes contrary to Rainsy’s call on the people to boycott the polls.

On Wednesday, Hun Sen also accused Rainsy and opposition leaders of “opposing the King” and seeking the “destruction of the constitutional monarchy”.

In his message to Cambodians, dated May 18 but which was only released to the public on Tuesday night, King Norodom Sihamoni called on all Cambodians who are registered voters to help elect a leader of the Kingdom who will continue the drive “for development and prosperity”.

“The election on July 29, 2018, is general, universal, free, fair, equal and conducted confidentially, in parallel with the principles of a liberal multi-party democracy,” the King writes.

“Please, do not be worried about any pressure, threat or intimidation from any individual or political party.

“I would like to ask all the people of the nation to use their right to vote according to their consciousness and trust in a candidate or political party,” the message reads.

Late last month, Rainsy revealed a letter he had written to the King requesting him not to encourage people to vote.

Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), who have been working to encourage voters to cast their ballot, mocked former CNRP members for their election boycott campaign.

The prime minister said that opposing the royal message is pean vaing, or an act of mistreating or abusing the King, and could lead to the destruction of Cambodia’s constitutional monarchy and “the overthrow of the throne”.

“Are they brave enough to oppose to the King’s message?” Hun Sen asked. “If they are, don’t forget that it is pean vaing because such an act proves that one day they will destroy the constitutional monarchy and overthrow the King.

“People all over the country – please pay attention to this issue.”

The prime minister said the King’s message is a “slap” in the faces of Rainsy and former CNRP members.

“Before, you said going to vote is just to hand power to Hun Sen’s party,” the prime minister said.

“You called the other 19 parties ahp parties, firefly parties . . . or puppet parties, but now the King sends a royal message – does it mean the King is Hun Sen’s puppet too?”

“Ahp” refers to a type of spirit in Cambodian folklore with a head but no body.

“The King is neutral, and he is not related to any political party, but he calls on his people to express their right to vote.

“If you oppose, it is clear that you are not only opposing Hun Sen or the other 19 parties, but also the King of the land,” Hun Sen said.

However, a press release issued after a CNRP Committee meeting in Washington on June 5 – the same day the King’s message was released – said it was held “to prepare an action plan to be put into effect to reject the election results”.

The press release continued that the meeting resulted in two points: “1. Prepare and encourage the Cambodian people inside and outside of the country to launch a campaign not to recognise the fake election; and 2. Strengthen diplomatic activities.”

Mu Sochua, a former CNRP deputy president, said via email that “the will of the people will be the defining factor.

“A free and fair process should be to respect and protect the people’s choice. Any election that robs the voters of that choice cannot be considered free and fair”.

Meas Nee, a political analyst, believed the royal message was probably an official letter prepared by the office of the Royal Palace.

Young Analyst Group head Hang Vitou said the King is a neutral figure and that he disagreed with Hun Sen’s statement.

“For the prime minister’s accusation that appealing to people not to vote is the same as toppling [the monarchy], I think that is a baseless accusation,” he said.

“The monarchy does not belong to anyone, the CPP or CNRP. The monarchy belongs to the people.

“Therefore, I think the allegation of attempting to topple is too strong. I think it is just politicians attacking one another.”

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