In his message on celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, known by its French acronym FUNSK, Prime Minister Hun Sen said for the sake of unity in the Kingdom, he is “tolerant” to those who “acknowledged their mistakes”, and that he may be the “only leader” to exhibit such a trait in Cambodian history.
Via his official Facebook page on Sunday night, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president also appealed to Cambodians to “promote national unity”.
“National solidarity requires tolerance. Have you ever allowed people making mistakes to apologise to you? Since ancient times, among Cambodian leaders, I am perhaps the most tolerant leader,” he said.
Hun Sen said previously, traitors were sentenced to “death”, but he has forgiven the people who committed “mistakes”.
While not mentioning him by name, he said he has forgiven one person twice, seemingly referring to outlawed former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Before returning to Cambodia in 2006, Rainsy received a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni, in relation to a “defamation” conviction, at the request of Hun Sen.
In the second case, before the 2013 national election, Rainsy received a second royal pardon from the King which ended the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader’s almost four years of self-exile abroad and paved the way for him to return and take part in the polls.
The charges against Rainsy came in late 2009 after he uprooted demarcation posts on the Vietnamese border and disseminated maps alleging Cambodia’s eastern neighbour had encroached on Cambodian territory.
“I forgive the people who realise their mistakes. Sometimes it is once and sometimes it is twice. But it cannot be the third time. I hope that nephews and nieces and our people can understand clearly about such tolerance for the sake of national solidarity.
“Finally, national solidarity requires the people to distinguish between the role of the opposition in national politics and when the opposition goes against the direct national interests of the Kingdom,” Hun Sen said.
He said all Cambodians have the freedom to vote and need to vote with responsibility.
“We also have freedom of expression, but we need to take responsibility for it so that we can promote national solidarity,” Hun Sen said.
Political analyst Meas Nee said he admits that the prime minister previously requested pardons for many convicted political prisoners. He said a leader’s success is also to promote national unity.
“Leaders who are going to be considered heroes in the future are those who could unite the whole country. When Cambodia remains split and fights each other, we cannot base leadership on 100 per cent heroism,” he said.