Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday urged S-21 survivor Chum Mey to cease protesting against opposition leader Kem Sokha so the country can get back to focusing on the upcoming National Election.
Speaking at the opening of the new National Olympic Committee of Cambodia headquarters in Phnom Penh, the premier also again denied that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party had orchestrated protests against Sokha, saying that if it had then the Cambodia National Rescue Party legislator would have been sent running for refuge.
“Don’t say the government or the ruling CPP is behind this,” he said. “Do you want to taste what a protest led by the CPP would be like?
“If leaders of the CPP, especially Hun Sen or [National Assembly president] Heng Samrin, led a strike . . . Kem Sokha would not be able to stand it. He would be running to hide in foreign embassies.”
On Sunday, Mey passionately addressed a rally of about 10,000 people in Phnom Penh who had gathered to demand Sokha apologise for allegedly saying the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 interrogation facility had been faked by the Vietnamese.
Sokha has denied the allegation, saying a tape purporting to contain the comments was doctored and other remarks he made taken out of context, but has since been confronted by protesters wherever he has gone.
Hun Sen said those outraged by Sokha’s alleged comments wanted to continue protesting, but it would be in the best interests of all parties if they stopped – at least until after July 28’s ballot.
“I would like to appeal to uncle Chum Mey as well as other demonstrators to please postpone strikes,” he said. “I cannot deny their right to strike but, at the moment, I ask them to postpone their protests temporarily at least until the election is complete.”
Hun Sen, however, said he did not want to ask protesters to stop exercising their right to demonstrate altogether, but encouraged them to do it in ways that would not affect political activity.
Chum Mey said he would honour Hun Sen’s request to desist protesting – but he said he was considering legal action against Sokha as an alternative.
“Of course, we have to respect Hun Sen because he is like a parent to us. We will not protest from now,” he said.
“However, I will discuss with other victims about a plan to file a lawsuit with the court. The court can take it from there and hear the case acc-ording to the law.”
The CNRP issued a statement a few hours after Hun Sen’s speech welcoming his appeal for protesters to postpone their public demonstrations against Sokha.
“The CNRP believes that keeping the situation calm before the election will improve the atmosphere and will be a factor that encourages political stability and national reconciliation,” a statement said.
The prime minister also said opposition politicians should stop making insulting comments about the CPP during its rallies as a way of inciting ill-will against it.
“I would like to appeal to the opposition party not to use tricks or say the government has to take responsibility for everything you’ve said. You create these bad situations yourself,” he said.