Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Wednesday that he would seek a fifth term as prime minister of Cambodia and threatened to end the current culture of dialogue with the opposition if a politician from the party continued to publicly criticize the ruling party.
Speaking at an inauguration ceremony in the southwestern city of Sihanoukville, Hun Sen criticized a speech by Kem Sokha, deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on April 20 in which he said if the CNRP won the next elections, it would not take revenge against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) .
“I would like to send a message to [CNRP president] Sam Rainsy: Please advise the people in your internal party that if you cannot stop Kem Sokha from saying this, the dialogue of culture might be halted,” Hun Sen said. “It was born, but it also can die.”
By law, Cambodia must hold the next general elections by 2018 to elect members of the country’s sixth National Assembly [parliament], but a year ago Hun Sen agreed to hold them five months earlier in February of that year.
RFA could not reach Kem Sokha for comment on Wednesday, but CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said his party would continue to strengthen the dialogue of culture with the CPP. He refused to comment on Hun Sen’s threat to end the political cooperation.
“Our party’s stand is to strengthen the culture [of dialogue],” he said. “We are working together.”
Designed by force
Social analyst Sam Eng said the dialogue of culture between the two political parties was not new in Cambodia, and that it would not be a problem if it died because it was designed by force.
“We are very concerned about the culture of dialogue,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service. “It exists through a political deadlock, [and] it doesn’t contain any goodwill. It’s all about political tricks.”
Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who has been in power for three decades, also announced Wednesday that he would take over as CPP president if current CPP and Senate president Chea Sim died.
Chea Sim has been ill for the last few months and is receiving treatment in Vietnam.
About his next bid for prime minister in the next elections, Hun Sen said: “Don’t talk about the candidates anymore. The candidate for prime minister has already been chosen because of a previous decision.”
He noted that he had the backing of Chea Sim and Heng Samrin, president of the Cambodian parliament.
“Chea Sim and Heng Samrin have always stated that they would support me to be the prime minister in the fifth term and coming terms,” Hun Sen said.
“Hun Sen is leading in the fifth mandate; Hun Sen will win in the sixth mandate,” he went on to say. “If I win, we will be safe. We will not have to run [from war].”
Parliament must choose
Political science expert Ros Ravuth pointed out that Hun Sen cannot declare that he will be the next prime minister, because the country’s constitution mandates that the National Assembly choose a candidate for prime minister from the party that wins the elections.
He also noted that the CPP must vote to choose its next president if Chea Sim dies, and criticized Hun Sen for saying there would be possible civil war if he lost the election.
Earlier this month, Hun Sen said Cambodia was at a new political stage in its history and called for the continuation of the culture of dialogue and putting “an end to the culture of revenge” between CPP and CNRP politicians.
His comment came about a week after the two parties had concluded eight months of contentious negotiations on electoral reform.
Hun Sen and the CPP had returned to power in the 2013 elections, sparking widespread protests and allegations of government control of the body that oversaw the country’s polls. The CNRP had boycotted parliament for 10 months to protest the disputed elections.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.