Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed yesterday not to pardon opposition leader Sam Rainsy for the third time. The Cambodia National Rescue Party leader is in exile facing an arrest warrant. Speaking during a graduation ceremony for students of the Royal University of Law and Economics, held on Koh Pich, Mr. Hun Sen did not specifically name Mr. Rainsy, but said he had pardoned twice already, and he would not do so for a third time.
“You continue to tickle me,” he added. “If you play do not be angry; if you’re angry do not play. My reply back to you if I am to pardon you for a third time, I, Hun Sen, will cut off my right hand by myself. It’s my message for the end of the year. I told you in advance.”
Mr. Rainsy was granted a Royal Pardon by King Sihamoni two times in February 2006 and July 2013, when he was allowed to return in time for the national election. Over the last twenty years, he has been expelled from the National Assembly four times, in 1995, 2005, 2011 and 2015.
On November 16, Mr. Rainsy was stripped of his seat in the National Assembly, and of parliamentary immunity that came with it, after a warrant was issued for his arrest on November 13. The arrest warrant stems from a 2008 complaint from Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accusing Mr. Rainsy of defamation for making comments saying that the minister was a Khmer Rouge collaborator during a memorial service at the Choeung Ek Genocide Center. In 2011, he was convicted in absentia on the charges and sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
Phnom Penh Municipal court has issued a summons ordering Mr. Rainsy to come to court on January 4 over charges of defamation. Another summons for December 4 was related to charges of conspiracy to fake public documents, use of false public documents and inciting chaos.
Mr. Hun Sen also called during his speech for an amendment of the law on political parties to stipulate that the party president can only have one nationality. Because there is a law already about the chairman and members of the National Election Committee being Khmer citizens, he said, a law on political parties needs to ensure the president of a political party is Khmer, in order to avoid party leaders carrying foreign passports abroad to ask foreigners to intervene. The comments were most likely alluding to Sam Rainsy’s dual French-Cambodian citizenship and the CPP’s accusations that his loyalties lie in Europe and not in the Kingdom.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovan said that the political situation will evolve with time, but the important thing is to work together to serve the country. “They should not talk about individual issues,” he said. “They should talk about the interests of the nation and democratic policies.
Ou Virak, a political analyst and president of Future Forum, noted that this is not the first time the prime minister has promised self-inflicted harm if he did not live up to his promises. Mr. Virak said that in a speech in 2001, the prime minister threatened decapitation.
“I will cut my own head off,” he said, referring to the action he would take if he failed to prevent illegal logging on economic land concessions.
Mr. Virak said that the premier’s comment was either politically motivated or an outburst: “What he is saying is just to block Sam Rainsy from returning or because he got angry.”