‘Prepare Your Coffins,’ Cambodia’s Prime Minister Tells Critics

Cambodia's ruling party may need to 'eliminate' opponents that 'threaten peace,' Hun Sen says.

Hun Sen speaks at an event marking the 40th anniversary of his decision to leave the Khmer Rouge and cross into Vietnam, June 21, 2017.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday issued a harsh warning to the country’s political opposition, telling critics of his more than 30-year rule to “prepare your coffins” if they persist in accusing him of threatening civil war if his party is defeated in the polls.

Speaking at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of his 1977 defection to Vietnam after serving as a junior officer in Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen said that only he and his family can defend social order and the country’s constitutional monarchy.

Analysts’ speculation that Hun Sen’s frequent warnings of chaos in Cambodia may reflect divisions in the country’s military are themselves a potential cause for war, Hun Sen said in his June 21 speech given in Anloung commune in the Memot district of Tbaung Khmum province.

“Your tongues themselves are a cause for war,” Hun Sen said in remarks aimed at Cambodian political analysts and others opposed to his rule. “If you persist in these insults, you should prepare your coffins.”

“Please don’t incite chaos!” Hun Sen added, saying that he and his family are solely responsible for the protection of the country, its constitution, and its accomplishments during his years in office.

To protect political and social stability in Cambodia, the country’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) must be ready to “eliminate” as many as 100 or 200 of its opponents, Hun Sen added.

“[But] if you have no part in destroying the peace, you will not be a target for elimination,” he said.

Remarks unfair to others

Speaking to RFA, Phnom Penh-based analyst Lao Mong Hay said Hun Sen’s remarks suppose that others in Cambodia care nothing for the country’s progress and well-being.

“Statements like these assume that others don’t hold these same views, meaning that they don’t love the monarchy or support the country’s achievements,” he said.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades, has warned repeatedly that electoral wins by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in local elections on June 4 and in parliamentary polls in 2018 would bring instability and war to the country.

And in May, defense minister Tea Banh said that Cambodia’s party-controlled military would “smash the teeth” of anyone protesting a CPP win.

Slightly more than 7 million Cambodians, or 89.52 percent of registered voters, turned out for commune council polls on June 4, a record turnout in a test of public opinion ahead of 2018 general elections.

According to government-affiliated Fresh News, unofficial results showed the CPP won 22 provinces while the CNRP won two major cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as Kompong Cham province.

Reported by Sokheng Saut and Maly Leng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.