Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday slammed former opposition leader Sam Rainsy for accusing King Norodom Sihamoni of issuing a letter under duress to the public in which he urged people to vote in the upcoming national election.
Speaking to about 20,000 workers in Kampong Cham province, Mr Hun Sen said that Mr Rainsy was defaming the King by making the accusation and also going against the King’s wishes to see a high voter turnout on July 29.
“Does he dare to oppose the King’s letter? If he does, he betrays the King,” he said. “It is clear that he wants to eliminate the constitutional monarchy and depose the throne.”
“It is also clear that he opposes the King,” he added.
King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday publicly released a letter that he signed on May 18, in which he urged the public to cast votes in the national election.
“The election on Sunday July 29 will be free, fair, just, equal and a secret election in accordance with multi-party democracy,” the King said. “Please don’t be concerned about pressure, intimidation or threats by someone or any political party.”
Mr Rainsy took to Facebook yesterday to demonise the letter, claiming the King either issued it under duress or that it was a fake.
“The King’s letter that appealed to the people to go to vote on July 29 is a fake letter or the letter was made under duress from Hun Sen,” Mr Rainsy said.
On May 23, Mr Rainsy also wrote to the King, asking him not to heed the government’s call for the public to participate in the election.
Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap said yesterday that authorities will take legal action against Mr Rainsy for insulting the King.
“He says the King’s letter is fake and it is seriously insulting to the King,” he said. “It is a violation of the law that was just amended.”
Mr Santepheap was referring to a recently passed amendment that has criminalised insulting the King, for which those found guilty face one to five years in jail.
Kuy Sophal, a senior minister at the Ministry of Royal Palace, could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, he told local media that the King’s letter was authentic.
National Police spokesman General Kirth Chantharith confirmed that experts are reviewing the case to take action against Mr Rainsy.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, said that Mr Rainsy will be prosecuted.
“It is clear that he is insulting the King’s honour and he will be prosecuted according to the law,” Mr Eysan said.
Political analyst Hang Vitou said that the King’s letter was authentic as he had a duty to call on his countrymen to exercise their right to vote.
“We have seen the character of [Mr Rainsy] who always incites and falsely accuses others,” Mr Vitou said.