Encouraged by a recent exchange with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son on Facebook, the leader of the fringe Khmer Power Party yesterday suggested Cambodia’s political leaders should stage public debates.
Soun Serey Ratha said that leaders should build on the “indirect democracy” illustrated in a recent back and forth between himself and Hun Manet, Hun Sen’s son and a senior military official.
On Facebook, Ratha had questioned the scion about where he got the money for his recent gift of winter jackets for troops, criticising the use of private cash for what should be an expense borne by the Ministry of Defence.
He also took aim at ruling party officials’ tendency to pass off the work of the state as that of the party, accusing Hun Sen, for instance, of taking the “national budget to build infrastructure and naming himself as the donor”.
In response, Manet, head of the ministry’s anti-terror department and a deputy commander of both the infantry and his father’s Bodyguard Unit, shot back that the clothes were gifted by his parents and another unnamed donor, and that Serey Ratha should use his “time and brain” to think how he could help the troops.
Though Serey Ratha said Manet’s answer “raised more questions than it answered”, he said that such exchanges should move into a public forum to allow people to see the leaders debate.
Although the constitution prescribes that citizens be granted an annual National Congress to grill their representatives, such a congress has never occurred. In recent times, however, the prime minister and various officials have begun garnering – and at times responding to – feedback on Facebook.
Reached yesterday, Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan and Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann both dismissed Serey Ratha’s comments, which also included calling Hun Sen a “dictator” and lambasting the opposition for being “afraid” of the ruling party.
Eysan suggested Serey Ratha, who was pardoned last year after being convicted of terrorism, should focus on building enough support to win a seat in parliament.
“He should look at his policy for gaining voters’ support . . . rather than criticising other parties’ policy,” Eysan said.
Sovann echoed the sentiment. “He can say whatever, it’s up to him. Now we are working as is the wish of the voters. If he has new ideas, [he should] wait to have seats in the [National] Assembly and then we can talk.”