Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen tells parties to refrain from insults, drawing accusations of hypocrisy

Hun Sen tells parties to refrain from insults, drawing accusations of hypocrisy

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an inauguration ceremony yesterday in Kratie province. FACEBOOK
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an inauguration ceremony yesterday in Kratie province. Facebook

Hun Sen tells parties to refrain from insults, drawing accusations of hypocrisy

In the middle of what observers and experts have described as a sustained legal, political and, at times, physical onslaught against the opposition, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called for parties to refrain from attacking or insulting their opponents in the run-up to the June commune elections.

Speaking at a school inauguration in Kratie province, the premier said there needed to be a civil environment free of antagonism ahead of the elections, before adding his own thinly veiled legal warning to those who indulged in “insulting” other parties.

“To avoid conflict is to not insult each other. Each party can raise their own policies, but do not discredit others,” he said, while noting that “some words should not be said because those words are not allowed by law”.

Pivoting to the elections, Hun Sen also called on Cambodian citizens to continue their support of the Cambodian People’s Party, adding that a vote for the party was a vote for “development and maintenance of peace”.

Reached yesterday, CNRP deputy director of public affairs Kem Monovithya said in an email that the CNRP had consistently pushed for all parties to focus on policies rather than engaging in “mud slinging and personal fights”.

“It’s not even entertaining anymore to the public; it’s gotten old and off putting,” she said.

Ou Virak, head of the Future Forum think tank, meanwhile, said Hun Sen’s statement was patently “hypocritical”.

The premier’s admonition comes in the wake of a litany of incidents deemed attacks on the opposition CNRP, which has also seen multiple members jailed and convicted, including party president Kem Sokha and exiled former president Sam Rainsy.

The CNRP has also found itself the target of a campaign of leaked private phone calls, many of them of a highly personal and embarrassing nature, which have raised fears of phone tapping, though the CPP has distanced itself from the leaks.

Attacks on the opposition have also crossed into the physical realm, with two CNRP lawmakers viciously beaten outside the National Assembly in late 2015 by a mob led by members of the premier’s Bodyguard Unit. Three members of the unit received largely suspended sentences for the attack, and, upon their release, were also promoted.

During Sokha’s extended stay at the CNRP headquarters, armed Bodyguard Unit troops descended on the site, patrolling the street adjoining it and buzzing the building with helicopters and patrol boats. At the time, the unit’s head, Hing Bun Heang, said he had the right to maintain security, and criticised the CNRP’s plans to create “insecurity” and “disorder”.

But CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday echoed his party leader’s statement, saying it wasn’t the ruling party’s culture to attack or insult any party. He also blamed the CNRP’s legal hassles on their own refusal to follow the law.

“For a fact, there is no pressure on the opposition party. The CNRP themselves have committed wrong and then legal action was taken,” he said.

All of the opposition lawmakers convicted over the last year and a half were sentenced on the basis of public remarks they had made, and Ou Virak noted yesterday that what constituted an attack or “insult” would depend entirely on the ruling party’s interpretation, adding that any ruling party was bound to be criticised on its track record.

“It hugely depends on who get[s] to decide and when and whether it’s convenient to do so,” he said in a message. “If that is a no-go area, then you will see the playing field tilted in favour of the incumbent.”

Like the premier, the CNRP’s Sokha also asked party supporters on Sunday to fight the upcoming commune elections on policy rather that engaging in verbal spats, striking a more conciliatory note in Banteay Meanchey yesterday, saying both parties had wide support bases and would see an even contest come June.

MOST VIEWED

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,