Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday threatened to release an audio recording in which opposition leader Sam Rainsy purportedly acknowledged a ruling party election victory during a meeting between the two leaders aimed at ending a political deadlock.
Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) immediately fired back at Hun Sen, saying they had nothing to hide from the meetings held Sept. 14-15, provided the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) does not edit the recording of the entire meeting.
Speaking during a cabinet meeting, Hun Sen said he would release the recording if the opposition continued to hold demonstrations against the official poll results giving the CPP a victory in the July 28 elections.
The CNRP claims the elections were tainted by fraud and other irregularities and has demanded an independent probe, but Hun Sen said Thursday that on the second day of talks, Sam Rainsy abandoned the idea of an investigation, asking instead for the CNRP to hold the presidency of the National Assembly, or parliament.
“If they continue to hold demonstrations, please publicize the tape and post it on Facebook,” Hun Sen said during his address.
“Sam Rainsy said he would stop demanding an independent committee to investigate election irregularities,” Hun Sen said. “Sam Rainsy added that the CNRP would accept [the official result that] CPP [won] 68 [National Assembly seats] and CNRP 55, he said.
“He [Sam Rainsy] said it a few times, meaning that they recognize the election results.”
Hun Sen said that the CNRP also expressed support for his role as prime minister, meaning “there is no further use for demonstrations.”
Hun Sen had said earlier this week that talks at the recorded meetings broke down because he could not meet opposition demands for key posts in parliament, including the posts of National Assembly president and chairperson for six of 12 legislative commissions.
“They [CNRP] want six commission chairmen [posts], and if we agree, they will agree to come to the first National Assembly meeting,” Hun Sen had said. “My stance is that I will allow them to have a deputy president's post, four commission chairman posts, and one deputy chairman post in five commissions.”
Following the failed meeting, CNRP boycotted the first post-election parliament sitting convened by King Norodom Sihamoni this week in which CPP lawmakers endorsed Hun Sen as prime minister and his newly-formed government.
Sam Rainsy called it a “constitutional coup” and threatened a nationwide general strike to step up protests challenging Hun Sen’s election victory and the legitimacy of his government.
The CNRP was quick to respond Thursday to Hun Sen’s claims of capitulation at the meetings, saying that the prime minister was getting desperate and “concerned about voters” unsatisfied with the election results.
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha told RFA’s Khmer Service that Hun Sen’s threat showed that he was nervous about a mass movement gathering pace against the administration, adding that the CNRP will continue to push for the establishment of a probe into election irregularities.
“It’s not a problem—what he said is clear,” Kem Sokha said, adding that the CNRP had “demanded an investigation [during the meetings] but we are concerned that he will edit that part out.”
“If he releases the entire recording of the talks it will show that we demanded justice for the voters. If they don’t, we will stage a mass demonstration,” said Kem Sokha, who was also present at the opposition meeting with Hun Sen.
This is not the first time the Hun Sen administration has made audio recordings of a meeting involving opposition leaders.
In June, Cambodian pro-government media carried remarks attributed to Kem Sokha saying that the notorious Khmer Rouge-era Tuol Sleng prison, in which thousands of Cambodians were tortured and killed, had not been run by the regime and was instead an invention of Vietnamese invaders.
Kem Sokha and the CNRP had said his remarks were “twisted” out of context to weaken the opposition ahead of the July polls.
Hun Sen had also accused CNRP senior official Son Chhay of spying for him in 1997 in exchange for U.S. $10,000, claiming he had a CD recording which proved that the opposition member had tipped him off about a plan to overthrow him.
Son Chhay has admitted to taking the money, but said he believed that not accepting it could have been seen as a “negative reaction” to a goodwill gesture from Hun Sen and jeopardized his negotiations with the prime minister.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.