Cambodia’s Hun Sen Says Opposition Figure Planned to Topple His Government

cambodia-hun-sen-speech-banteay-meanchey-province-march18-2015.jpg Hun Sen gives a speech at a groundbreaking ceremony in northwestern Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, March 18, 2015.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday alleged that vice president of the opposition party and vice president of parliament Kem Sokha was the mastermind of a plot to topple his government following disputed national elections in 2013.

Hun Sen openly announced during a televised speech from Banteay Meanchey province in northwest Cambodia that Kem Sokha, the second-in-command of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was a “leader of second and third hands,” a reference to a group of people who he said want to overthrow the government of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

He said Kem Sokha had unveiled plans to overthrow the government during a speech on March 13 in Long Beach, California, where he met with his supporters and said the CNRP wanted to lead the government, but could not because of the CPP’s stronghold.

“Now he has confessed that he tried to topple the government and the CPP,” Hun Sen said. “He apologized to the people for his failure. What should we do according to the law?” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen urged all people who had lost their businesses in the aftermath of the national elections in July 2013 to seek financial compensation from Kem Sokha.

He also said the court should revisit a pending case against Kem Sokha over the protest that followed the disputed elections in which the National Election Commission (NEC), an independent agency that supervises the country’s national elections, declared the CCP victorious, prompting opposition lawmakers to boycott parliament for 10 months.

A violent clash erupted during an antigovernment protest on July 15, 2014, when CNRP supporters clashed with security guards at Freedom Park in the capital Phnom Penh. At least 40 people were injured, and several CNRP lawmakers were arrested on “insurrection” charges for their role in the protest.

CNRP lawmakers returned to parliament following a July 22 deal with the CCP, which included electoral reforms. Under the deal, the new NEC was to consist of nine members—four from each party and one neutral member to serve as tiebreaker.

But last Week, Kem Sokha said the political settlement between the CPP and CNRP would unravel unless opposition party activists arrested last year for their alleged involvement in a protest that turned violent were released next month.

“We must take legal action, [because] there is a pending case against him [Kem Sokha],” the prime minister said, adding that “judges are stupid” and must record Kem Sokha’s confession.

CPP lawmakers are standing by to strip Kem Sokha of his immunity as a parliamentarian to allow the court to investigate the case, Hun Sen said.

He also repeated an earlier assertion that he would not intervene to release CNRP activists, who had been arrested for participating in the Freedom Park riots, from prison. He said the activists must remain in jail.

Approval of legislation

During the speech, Hun Sen urged all lawmakers to attend a parliamentary session on Friday to approve two controversial pieces of draft legislation on the NEC and the election of members of the National Assembly (parliament).

He praised CNRP leader Sam Rainsy for his support of the two draft laws and said he would continue to work with the opposition lawmaker after the legislation had been approved to set up a new NEC by April 13.

The prime minister also warned nongovernmental organizations to stay out of National Assembly politics and said they must respect parliament’s decisions, which represent the voters.

Never said ‘topple’

Speaking from Tennessee, Kem Sokha denied that he had made any statements about overthrowing the government.

“Hun Sen must be confused about the information,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service in an interview. “I never used the word ‘topple,’ and in my heart I never want to use violence. I’m always opposed to any violent actions.”

Kem Sokha said he told his supporters that the CNRP could not hold any violent demonstrations.

“We can’t afford to have any violent protests,” he said. “Our CNRP’s principle is nonviolence. I confessed that we couldn’t reform the election by 100 percent.”

Kem Sokha said that he supported the draft laws according to the party’s stand, and that he and Sam Rainsy made joint decisions.

He said Hun Sen’s allegation was meant to split him and Sam Rainsy from leading the opposition party and that the prime minister had been trying to accomplish this for a long time.

“This is not a new thing,” Kem Sokha said. “They [the CPP] want to split me from Sam Rainsy. The CNRP would not accept any attempt to split the party if they want to work with us.”

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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