Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Saturday said former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has done nothing to help the development of the Kingdom.
A fierce government critic, Mr Rainsy has made jabs at government officials as he calls on Cambodian people to support his efforts to restore democracy and human rights. Mr Rainsy has also advocated for the revocation of the Kingdom’s Everything-but-arms trade status.
Mr Kheng made his statement during a temple inauguration ceremony in Prey Veng province.
He said Mr Rainsy claimed to love the nation and democracy, but noted that Mr Rainsy has not done anything positive.
“Some people said they love the nation, but they have not done anything,” Mr Kheng said. “I am not blaming anyone for what they said, but for the fact they have done nothing.”
“We are a peaceful, stable country, so there is no war,” he added. “We have one national army, one civil servant, one national police, one royal gendarmerie, one King, one prime minister, one royal government, and we do not have an unlawful army to overthrow the government.”
Mr Kheng then lashed out at CNRP supporters and the international community for accusing the government of setbacks to democracy, and not respecting human rights.
“For us, the democratic process in Cambodia is improving and it is moving forward,” he said. “It’s because we have strong, genuine democracy – that’s why we now have peace and stability.”
Mr Kheng’s comments followed a statement issued by the European Commission after an EU delegation visited the Kingdom to follow up on improvements to democracy and human rights last week.
In February, the European bloc launched a six-month period of intensive monitoring and engagement to analyse whether Cambodia should lose its Everything-but-arms trade status. The recent visit was part of that review.
In its statement, the EC called on the government “to show real, credible improvement on issues of concern” in order for Cambodia to avoid losing its EBA trade status.
According to the statement, these issues include the violation and potential violation of political rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, rights to organise and collective bargaining and dispossession of families caused by economic land concession.
The government has in the past reiterated that it had improved political and civil society spaces by amending the Law on Political Parties in order to allow the return of former CNRP members who were banned from politics after the party was dissolved.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said he agreed with Mr Kheng, to some extent.
“I think what Samdech Sar Kheng said was not wrong – we saw [Sam Rainsy] committed to national reconciliation, but it never happened,” Mr Chanrath said.