Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to keep former opposition leader Sam Rainsy out of the country’s political sphere until the day he dies.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a bridge in Tbong Khmum province on Friday, Mr Hun Sen said Mr Rainsy would not be allowed to influence politics in the country as long as he were alive.
“If Sen is here, Sy cannot be. If Sy is here, Sen cannot be,” he told the crowd, referring to himself and Mr Rainsy.
“I will continue to ensure this is the case until the respective days of our deaths,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen said that Mr Rainsy made a similar statement 15 years ago, implying that if he took power in the country, Mr Hun Sen would be forced out.
“I’m doing the same thing to you,” the Prime Minister said. “We have been in power for decades. We are not stupid. It has been 40 years since the liberation.”
Mr Rainsy’s comment 15 years ago was made when the ruling CPP was unable to find two-thirds of votes to form a government after the 2003 election.
The CPP won a majority of 73 seats, but the country was left without a properly functioning government for almost a year as it negotiated with smaller parties over forming a coalition.
At the time, Mr Rainsy said: “If the new government includes Hun Sen, it won’t include Sam Rainsy. If it includes Sam Rainsy, it won’t include Hun Sen.”
Mr Rainsy posted on twitter last week and agreed that he and Mr Hun Sen were getting old.
He said both of them should help implement a new law whereby a Cambodian prime minister must not be older than 65.
“I only want to rescue Cambodia from Hun Sen’s destructive policies and to bring about a much needed democratic change. Hun Sen should realise – as the vast majority of the Cambodian people have – that he has become unacceptably anachronistic,” Mr Rainsy said.
The Supreme Court dissolved the opposition CNRP on treason charges in November last year and banned 118 CNRP members from politics for five years.
Mr Rainsy last month created the Cambodia National Rescue Movement to demand the release of the CNRP’s detained leader Kem Sokha, and to push for the CNRP to join the upcoming national election in July.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Mr Rainsy always failed in his political endeavours, while Mr Hun Sen always succeeded.
“We have Hun Sen and we don’t have Sam Ranisy, so the Prime Minister is already doing what he promised,” he said.