Cambodia’s political opposition party on Monday slammed the country’s top diplomat for accusing its leaders of plotting to overthrow the government, while a commentator warned that such allegations could damage the “culture of dialogue” between parties in the Southeast Asian nation.
On Oct. 10, foreign minister Hor Namhong told a gathering of soldiers in southeastern Cambodia’s Tbong Khmum province that the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had been planning to “topple the government.”
He said the CNRP had begun plotting to “seize power” by organizing a popular revolt after losing elections to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in 2013, referring to a series of protests the opposition led following the polls.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann on Monday hit back at Hor Namhong, saying his party had no intention of leading a violent movement to overthrow the government and that the 2013 demonstrations were held to demand a vote recount, amid widespread allegations that the polls were neither free nor fair.
“In a democratic world, elections are held to change leadership in a government,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service, adding that achieving victory through the polls should not be considered a plot to take over the country.
“The CNRP is adhering to the principles of peace and advocacy to bring about change in the government through a free and fair election.”
Political science professor Ros Ravuth told RFA that “false political rhetoric” could threaten the political balance in Cambodia, adding that the CNRP is incapable of carrying out a violent takeover of the government.
“Incitement can lead to political instability,” he said.
“It can lead to discrimination against the opposition party and a split in unity.”
In July last year, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy signed an agreement with Hun Sen to break a deadlock and end a boycott of parliament by 55 opposition lawmakers which had arisen from the disputed general elections a year earlier.
Both leaders then committed their parties to a “culture of dialogue” that would allow them to work together for the interest of the country, though the rival political groups have publicly aired a number of disagreements since then.
The CNRP had earlier refused to recognize the result of the 2013 elections, saying it was robbed of victory by the CPP amid accusations of rigging and other malpractices blamed on the government-appointed National Election Committee, which organized the polls.
Reported by Tha Kitya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.