Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that Prime Minister Hun Sen is “dreaming” if he believes he can split the leadership of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, describing deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha as his “life-long partner in the rescue of the nation”.
Speaking to Radio France International on Sunday night, Rainsy recalled that during the so-called culture of dialogue between himself and Hun Sen in 2015, the premier had treated him much like he was now attempting to treat Sokha.
“When I was in Cambodia, he said the same. He said Sam Rainsy is his partner, [and that] he liked working with Sam Rainsy – but he could not work with Kem Sokha,” Rainsy said during the interview. “He wanted to split Kem Sokha and I, but he failed.”
“So then he came close to Kem Sokha,” Rainsy said, before adding that he did not believe the strategy would work. “Hun Sen is just dreaming when he thinks he can split Sam Rainsy from Kem Sokha. This delusion will lead to the resounding failure of his strategy.”
Rainsy and Sokha, who had led two rival parties deeply distrustful of each other, created the CNRP a month after their catastrophic showings at the July 2012 commune elections. The party subsequently came within seven seats of victory at the July 2013 national election.
Rainsy in his interview said the two were now completely united and that he considered Sokha to be his “life-long partner in the rescue of the nation”.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday that Rainsy was imagining things and that the reason Hun Sen switched from working with Rainsy and rejecting Sokha to rejecting Rainsy and only working with Sokha was because only Sokha was in Cambodia.
“In fact, it is Sam Rainsy who attacked him from the back. He was the one who broke relations,” Eysan said, without elaborating on what Rainsy did. The opposition leader fled the country in November 2015 after a years-old prison conviction was suddenly reignited.
“If Sam Rainsy cannot work with him, who will work with Hun Sen? In the National Assembly, the two parties need to communicate,” he said. “Hun Sen has no choice – he chooses the one who can talk.”
Ou Virak, head of think tank the Future Forum, said he believed Rainsy was correct that the premier was trying to split him from Sokha but that the strategy’s chances for success depended wholly on the CNRP.
“It’s not strange in the political game for one to weaken the other, but what is important is what strategy the CNRP has for their party strength,” he said.