Opposition leader Sam Rainsy held a Pchum Ben ceremony yesterday for the spirits of those killed in the still-unsolved 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally, promising attendees that should his party win in 2018, he would “rearrange” the country’s government to ensure institutions’ independence.
Though the message was consistent with frequent Cambodia National Rescue Party promises to ensure an independent government, it seemingly clashed with remarks delivered by Rainsy just the day before in which he reassured Cambodia’s civil servants that their jobs were safe in the event of a CNRP victory in 2018.
An ultimately stymied investigation into the grenade attack by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation pointed to government involvement in the attack, which killed 16 and left more than 100 wounded. The Cambodian government’s investigation technically remains open, but no perpetrators were ever brought to justice – a fact Rainsy yesterday blamed on a judiciary beholden to the rich and powerful.
“Who can make a way for the court to work independently and effectively?” Rainsy asked.
“Only the Cambodia National Rescue Party has a possible opportunity soon at the upcoming [election] to rearrange the country, especially in the judicial sector, to have independent courts to give justice to all victims,” he added.
However, in a speech on Saturday to supporters in Kampong Cham province, Rainsy called for civil servants and the members of the country’s security forces to vote for the CNRP, reassuring them that their jobs were safe and reiterating longstanding promises to raise civil servants’ salaries.
“I start by appealing to civil servants, police, soldiers and military police, who are all Khmer, and who serve the nation and defend the nation – please brothers and sisters, do not worry,” Rainsy said. “The Cambodia National Rescue Party is coming to lead the country and to keep the positions for our brothers and sisters without affecting them, without changing them, without firing them.”
Asked whether the two positions were at odds, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann maintained that civil servants’ jobs were safe, while adding the caveat that those with a history of graft wouldn’t be so lucky.
“The good ones, we will promote,” he said yesterday. “It’s only a handful of high-ranking people who are corrupt, so we have to remove them.”
However, independent analyst Ou Virak said yesterday that with the implementation of new laws and enough political will, the judiciary could slowly be reformed, but cautioned that with regards to corruption, “most are corrupt, not a few”.
“The question is how far you want to punish them or how differently you could tackle corruption and yet not [go] after most” civil servants, he said in a message.
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan, however, brushed off Rainsy’s proposals as a “bluff”, saying they were predicated on an election victory that could never happen in the first place.
“I dare to predict beforehand that there is no way [for the CNRP] to win. [Rainsy] reached the top in 2013. Now he must go back down.”