Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on all local authorities not to brand villagers as opposition activists when they protest to demand land dispute resolutions, noting that his ruling CPP is aiming to stay in power indefinitely.
Speaking at the inauguration of a CPP office in Tbong Khmum province’s Tbong Khmum district on Saturday, Mr Hun Sen said that local officials should not enrage villagers embroiled in land disputes by accusing them of being opposition activists as it would tarnish the party’s popularity ahead of the national election in July.
“Some village chiefs and commune chiefs make people disgruntled, especially related to land disputes,” he said. “Local authorities falsely accuse them of being opposition people. This is very dangerous for our party.”
“The CPP is not only in power for 30 to 40 years; we plan to hold power everywhere, at communal and provincial levels, and centrally because we have strong footholds,” he added.
Political analyst Hang Vitou agreed with Mr Hun Sen’s remarks, saying that the CPP will remain in power if the people keep supporting it as the national election nears.
“It is correct,” he said. “If the people still support him and vote for the ruling CPP, they will win the election.”
“But if the people stop supporting him, we don’t know if he will hold power,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen also appealed to all CPP members to do good deeds, especially by providing public services to villagers and coming to their doorsteps, issuing them birth and marriage certificates.
Song Srey Leap, a Boeng Kak community activist, lauded Mr Hun Sen’s remarks for advising his officials to cease linking villagers locked in land disputes to opposition activists.
“Now we are waiting to see if his officials will follow the Prime Minister’s advice,” Ms Srey Leap said. “I think he is saying this because the election is nearing and he needs support from voters.”
“He should have given this advice five years ago,” she added. “The villagers just need resolutions to their problems and decent living conditions.”
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said that Mr Hun Sen’s remarks will likely fall on deaf ears because it is a tendency for local officials to discriminate against people based on their political leanings.
“I think what the Prime Minister has said may stop such circumstances for a while, but only until the election,” he said. “The law does not encourage discrimination, but some individuals act beyond their duty to gain favour from their leaders.”