Delivering a campaign speech from his home via Facebook Live on Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen said his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had carried the country through danger in its latest mandate.
He was specifically referring to the threat of a “colour revolution” from the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
A former CNRP lawmaker responded to Hun Sen’s comments, saying that the court-ordered dissolution would only work against the CPP.
The speech came on the sixth day of campaigning before voters head to the polls on July 29 and vote for one of 20 competing parties.
The CNRP, the CPP’s long-standing rival, will not be on the ballot after it was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year. Some of its members have also been banned from political activity for five years.
The party’s president, Kem Sokha, is under pretrial detention at Trapaing Phlong Prison, located near the Vietnam border after being charged with treason for allegedly conspiring with the US to overthrow the Cambodian government.
“In its fifth mandate, the Cambodian government, led by the CPP, with me as prime minister led the country past many dangerous situations to maintain peace, stability, security, and social order, and prevent the colour revolution from inside and outside the country,” he said.
Touching on other issues, Hun Sen said his party has added peace and political stability, provided favourable conditions for socio-economic development to accomplish remarkable achievements.
He highlighted the addition of roads, bridges, irrigation systems, clean water, wells and power grids as among them.
“Democracy, freedom, obedience to the law is improving,” he said and called once more for people to vote for the CPP, stressing that it has the “correct” policies.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath fired back that preventing a colour revolution is not an advantage but a drawback, as the government’s actions have caused an international backlash.
“Even though [Hun Sen] thinks the destruction of the opposition party is an advantage. I think it is not a benefit, but a disadvantage. It has brought much harm to the ruling party, and also people across the country,” he said.
He stressed that the dissolution of an opposition party was considered by Cambodians and the international community as a human rights violation.
“After the government eliminated the biggest opposition party in the country, there is strong pressure from the international community, which believes there is no colour revolution like [the prime minister] said.
“It is not an attempt to overthrow the government or bring about instability in the country. It was purely about democracy,” he said.
Political analyst Meas Nee believes Hun Sen’s explanation of the colour revolution and dissolution of the opposition is a strategy to prevent hatred from millions of people who previously supported the CNRP.
He noted that the prime minister spent more time meeting workers and joining campaign events than in past elections. “What is different from before and why is he trying so hard? It may be that he is worried.
“Previously, he used to say he does not have to campaign himself, but only send party members to do so, and the CPP will still win. This time he campaigns himself,” Nee said.
He said even though the opposition party is already dissolved, its structure still concerns Hun Sen, especially the fact that its members are urging a vote boycott.
“With the absence of the CNRP, many people will not go to vote. That means a show of support for the CNRP. The soul of the CNRP is haunting and making him angry,” he said.