Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - War of words between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy continues

War of words between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy continues

Sam Rainsy, left, and Prime Minister Hun Sen pose for photos after meeting at the National Assembly in 2014.
Sam Rainsy, left, and Prime Minister Hun Sen pose for photos after meeting at the National Assembly in 2014. Heng Chivoan

War of words between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy continues

Prime Minister Hun Sen took aim at former opposition leader Sam Rainsy in a speech today, mockingly characterising his long-time rival as loser – and an old one at that.

“The one who wants to replace me as prime minister is older than me. They should take somebody younger to replace the older,” the premier said to a crowd of garment workers in Phnom Penh's Por Sen Chey district.

Rainsy, at 68, is three years older than Hun Sen, though the latter has been in power for 33 years, and has pledged to serve another 10 as prime minister.

Hun Sen also poked at his rival’s lack of electoral success, leaving out the fact that many observers have questioned the integrity of Cambodian elections, including the coming National Assembly election scheduled for July.

Rainsy is currently in self-imposed exile avoiding a host of politically tinged convictions, and the party he helped to found – the Cambodia National Rescue Party – was forcibly dissolved at the government's behest in November. The decision also banned 118 of its senior members from participating in politics for five years.

“He said I am afraid of him, that’s why I didn’t allow him to join the election," Hun Sen said of Rainsy. "If you are a convict how can you join the election?”

Indeed, Cambodian law forbids political parties from so much as using the image or writings of "convicts" for the party's benefit, let alone accepting convicted criminals' help. That highly contentious amendment to the Political Parties Law was rammed through parliament by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party last year in the run-up to the CNRP's dissolution. It and a companion set of amendments forbidding convicted criminals from holding leadership positions in parties were both seen as being targeted directly at the CNRP, and specifically Rainsy.

Not long after the amendments forced Rainsy out of politics, his successor, Kem Sokha, was arrested on widely decried charges of "treason'. Another provision included in the same amendments – this one forbidding parties from conspiring with foreign powers – formed the government's justification for dissolving the CNRP some two months later.

Hun Sen, however, suggested something else had kept Rainsy from succeeding all these year. Rainsy, Hun Sen said in a final taunt, “never wins” elections because he “wants to be Prime Minister too much”.

Responding to the barbs, Rainsy today agreed with Hun Sen that space should be made for younger leaders, taking the idea a step further and proposing to create a law requiring that Cambodia's prime minister be under the age of 65.

“It would be a concrete, more than symbolic gesture to show that we both really want to promote the new generation,” he said in an email.

But the election-related taunts Rainsy characterised as “silly language” that revealed to the world that Hun Sen is “a coward”.

Political analyst Meas Nee, meanwhile, condemned both Hun Sen and Rainsy for reverting to “personal attacks”, but allowed there could be an element of fear motivating Hun Sen's attacks on the former opposition.

“If he was not afraid of Sam Rainsy, maybe he would just keep quiet instead of reacting to everything he says,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement