Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lashed out at former opposition leader Sam Rainsy who called for him step down, saying that he obtained his premiership through legitimate elections.
Speaking to thousands of garment workers in Kandal province yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said Mr Rainsy’s recent comments were nonsensical, as he first asked to meet with him for negotiations and then demanded that he step down.
“What can you do to me, you cannot do anything to me,” Mr Hun Sen said. “You tell me to step down peacefully, but I got the position legitimately.”
Mr Hun Sen added that neither he nor Mr Rainsy could attain the premiership without going through legitimate elections.
“If you want to take a shortcut, please come on and try, but your group will not dare to do so,” he said, referring to the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, which Mr Rainsy launched after the opposition CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court.
“Your group only dares to take action outside the country,” Mr Hun Sen added.
Mr Rainsy has lived in exile since 2015 after being hit with slew of court cases, including by Mr Hun Sen who accused him of defamation.
In the past few days, he has taken to social media to first suggest a meeting with the premier, ostensibly in Australia when Mr Hun Sen visits the country for the Asean-Australia Summit next week.
But Mr Hun Sen was quick to rule out meeting any members of the former opposition, especially ones linked to the CNRM, which he has labelled a terrorist organisation.
Mr Rainsy then responded by posting on Facebook that Mr Hun Sen should voluntarily step down now or be forced out later.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that Mr Rainsy’s comments were ludicrous.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen got his position as Prime Minister because the people supported him and voted for him,” he said.
In the 2013 national elections, the Cambodian People’s Party won 68 seats and the opposition CNRP won all remaining 55 seats.
The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November after its leader Kem Sokha was jailed on treason charges and the party was accused of conspiring with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution.
The court also banned 118 senior members from politics for five years. Mr Rainsy then established the CNRM in response to unite opposition figures and attempt to contest the upcoming national election in July.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath, who has not joined the CNRM, said yesterday that he would support Mr Hun Sen stepping down voluntarily, but not through any other means.
“I agree with stepping down voluntarily without being forced to step down,” he said. “But causing any violence, I do not support that.”
Yesterday, the Grassroots Democracy Party issued a statement voicing its concern about the country’s political tension, noting that it could affect the dignity of the Kingdom in the international arena.
“To make the political environment better, the Grassroots Democracy Party would like to call on the government to release Kem Sokha,” the statement said.