Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday repeated his warning that opposition victories in local elections next month and parliamentary polls in 2018 would bring war to the country, saying his ruling Cambodian People's Party could lose patience and "burn down your homes."
Hun Sen, who has ruled the Southeast Asian country since 1985, used a three-hour speech to some 4,000 Christians in Phnom Penh, to drive home a threat that he has made several times in the run up to the June 4 commune elections.
"War will happen if the CPP loses control," he said in a speech at Koh Pich Convention Center in the capital.
Hun Sen warned the opposition party not to dare trying to wage war, saying that all his sons are soldiers.
“All of Hun Sen’s sons are soldiers, and one of them even graduated from West Point. So don’t agitate for war!" he said.
He noted that Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister whose royalist party Hun Sen destroyed in a violent coup in the 1990s, was "also dispirited" in defeat.
"Words can cause war if the CPP loses patience and goes to your homes and burns down your homes," Hun Sen added.
The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which has said its electoral success would benefit all Cambodians, declined to take Hun Sen's bait, noting he had issued such threats before.
“Whatever he wants to say, let him say it alone. I just wish to call on our citizens to retain their spirit and take part in the election,” said CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann.
Hun Sen's latest war threat came 10 days after his defense minister, Tea Banh, warned that the army will “smash the teeth” of anyone protesting a win by the ruling party in the June 4 elections.
“If you lose the elections and contest the results by taking to the streets to protest, we will smash your teeth,” the defense minister said. “I’m warning you in strong terms that we won’t allow such protests again.”
Although Cambodia's 2015 election law forbids officials and civil servants from making threats on lives or property, a spokesman for the National Election Committee said it will not look into Hun Sen's threats unless a complaint is filed by a political party.
“Without a complaint, the NEC will not take any action. The important thing is harmony among the Khmers at this time.” said NEC spokesman Hang Puthea.
Observers say the CNRP—one of 12 political parties competing for 1,646 commune council seats—could give the CPP a run for its money in the June polls, foreshadowing a possible CNRP win in national elections scheduled for 2018.
Reported by Vuthy Tha, Sonorng Khe and Maly Leng for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.