CNRP President Kem Sokha on the campaign trail yesterday continued to pledge a peaceful outcome if voters choose the opposition party in Sunday’s commune poll, offering a measured response to government and military rhetoric warning of violence if the vote goes against the ruling party.
“Please go together to vote. A vote on June 4 is to select local leaders to lead communes. Vote for CNRP, you will have freedom, peace and real prosperity,” he said at a rally in Mondulkiri yesterday.
While Sokha tried to play down the violent rhetoric, however, the government’s aggressive language has not gone unnoticed overseas.
Elected officials from the United States and Australia, as well as a group of regional lawmakers, have asked Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to forego using any repressive tactics ahead of the June 4 ballot.
In the weeks leading up to the elections, Hun Sen has warned the opposition not to test his patience, even threatening on May 25 to “burn . . . homes down” in response to accusations that people were paid to attend CPP rallies.
Senior cabinet member and Defence Minister Tea Banh has also said there would be little tolerance for post-election protests and that people in the streets “would be beaten until their teeth come out”.
The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), which has consistently slammed the government for restricting the opposition, called on the ruling party to stop using threats, intimidation and violence in order to enable Cambodians to vote for their choice of candidates.
“This rhetoric of coups and violence is not just about threatening the opposition; it is also about scaring everyday Cambodians into voting for the ruling party and limiting their aspirations for change,” said APHR head Charles Santiago in a statement yesterday.
Meanwhile, a visiting delegation from the Cambodian community in Australia briefed parliamentarians on the human rights and electoral environment in the Kingdom on Tuesday.
After the briefing, Australian parliamentarian Clare O’Neil expressed concern at the “awful” and “repressive” techniques being used by the government during the commune elections, assuring the delegation that the Australian parliament would not remain quiet.
“I will say to you in the gallery that we on the Labor side of politics are so concerned with what we hear, and we will continue to speak out – not to clink glasses with Hun Sen but to be out there protecting your rights and trying to restore democracy in Cambodia,” she told the delegation.
The delegation was led by Victoria MP Hong Lim, who released a statement on behalf of the Cambodian Australian Federation condemning threats and fear-mongering coming from the ruling party.
“This is a desperate attempt from Hun Sen to maintain his grip on power. When he threatens harm to his own people, all must question his suitability to govern,” he said.
Three US lawmakers also called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week to send an “important and necessary” signal to Hun Sen to stop using scare tactics and “respect the rights of the Cambodian people”.