Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday rejected opposition demonstrators’ calls for his resignation and a re-election, saying there was “no mechanism” in the country’s laws to allow fresh polls.
The longtime leader made the remarks as protesters led by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) gathered in the capital for the sixth day in a row.
Thousands have joined the marches and hundreds have camped out in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park since Sunday, many of them carrying placards calling for Hun Sen to step down and for another vote.
“They ask me to resign, but what have I done wrong?” Hun Sen said to reporters at a press conference.
“I obtained my position by means of the constitution and I will only leave it by means of the constitution,” he said.
The CNRP, which claims Hun Sen took power in a “constitutional coup” after July polls it says were tainted by fraud, has vowed to keep up daily protests for three months or until there is a fresh vote.
Asking the demonstrators to “please read the law,” Hun Sen said the demand was not possible and the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, would not be dissolved.
“I would like to stress that there is no re-election, no one will dissolve the National Assembly, and there is no mechanism through which to hold a re-election,” he said.
Hun Sen’s government has insisted that complaints about irregularities in the July election have been resolved, prohibiting a re-election based on flaws in the polls.
But according to Cambodia’s laws a re-election could be held in the case of political crisis or consent from all political parties that competed in the July polls, analysts have told RFA.
Hun Sen said that the country’s constitution does not allow him, the country’s king, or the National Assembly itself to dissolve the legislature before the end of its five-year mandate.
“I would like to clarify to the all people across the country that in Cambodia, the constitution is different from those in other countries,” he said.
“Other countries allow the prime minister to dissolve the legislature, but in Cambodia, Article 78 of the Constitution says the National Assembly term is five years and it can’t be dissolved before the end of its term unless government is deposed twice within 12 months.”
Stepping up protests
CNRP leaders vowed Friday to continue to step up their protests despite warnings from Hun Sen that demonstrators would face “legal consequences” if they followed through on a plan to block traffic in the capital.
Earlier this week, CNRP President Sam Rainsy and his number-two Kem Sokha threatened to have demonstrators block national highways and seize state buildings next month if demonstrators’ demands are ignored.
Asking protesters to “please avoid blocking roads,” Hun Sen said the CNRP’s plan could harm the country’s “national security.”
“The government is tolerant of peaceful demonstrations but will not allow any illegal activities that provoke social instability,” he said.
CNRP President Sam Rainsy said the party was undeterred by the demands and would stage an even larger protest on Sunday.
He said the party must continue to “seek appropriate measures including verifying the vote, resolving election irregularities, or holding a re-election.”
The CNRP has boycotted parliament since the July polls, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was declared the winner with 68 seats in parliament to the opposition's 55, though the CNRP claimed it won at least 63.
The election body and the country’s constitutional court have both said that all claims of poll irregularities have been investigated and rejected, making an independent probe sought by the opposition unnecessary.
Reported by Den Ayuthya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.