PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Senior Minister Ieng Mouly is the former president of the Buddhist Liberal Party, which was formed in 1997 but failed to win a single seat in 1998 national elections. Mr. Mouly is now a senior minister and the chair of National AIDS Authority. Khmer Times spoke to him about his views on the shifting political scene, including the impact the new, small political parties will have on the next election.
KT: More than 40 political parties will be vying for seats in the next election. What impact will this have?
Mr. Mouly: If many parties contest the election that’s a great thing. It means that the democratic process in Cambodia is moving forward and the country is adopting a policy of liberal multi-party democracy.
Another thing, if we compare the political situation here with our neighbors we are doing better, in my opinion.
KT: Is the creation and or recreation of Funcinpec along with other small parties a strategic move by Prime Minsiter Hun Sen?
Mr. Mouly: I don’t think there is any political strategy on the part of Premier Hun Sen to give opportunity to many parties to register at the Interior Ministry to conduct political activities. This is just multi-party democracy, which is the system enshrined in the supreme law.
The ruling party never donated money or gave support to any small party to compete with opposition parties. Contrary, the small parties have been operating with their own funds.
KT: Small parties like the Grassroots Democracy Party and Khmer Power Party have registered at the Interior Ministry to conduct political activities. It has been alleged by opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party wants to split the CNRP. Is this true?
Mr. Mouly: I think that those opposition CNRP officials do not understand the meaning of a multi-party democratic regime in Cambodia. Perhaps the CNRP is concerned about the improving democracy in the country. The CNRP has been using the same tactics for a long time to mislead and lure voters, but now everybody clearly knows the devil’s mind within the CNRP and no one believes them.
KT: What can small parties expect to get after the next election, a ministry or a smaller agency?
Mr. Mouly: I don’t think this will apply for all political parties per se. But for the Royalist Funcinpec Party, if it manages to get at least one seat at the National Assembly, then automatically it is only natural that it will have an opportunity to re-join the government as a junior coalition partner with the CPP.
We must concede that Funcinpec is an important party. It contributed to ending the civil war and was one of the parties that signed the Paris Peace Accords 1991.
KT: With several CNRP activists and other officials in jail, is the culture of dialogue dead? Is the hot-button issue the border dispute with Vietnam?
Mr. Mouly: I strongly hope that the culture of dialogue will continue be a useful mechanism to resolve the country’s political problems. But the opposition party leaders do not show the characteristics of being a true friend to the ruling CPP.
Although Sam Rainsy always attempted to seek political compromise with Samdech Hun Sen to resolve problems, his comrades, on the contrary, still continuously attack Samdech Hun Sen and the government
Actually, currently some opposition parliamentarian members have exacerbated the situation by forging public documents regarding the sensitive border issue with Vietnam.
Is the culture of dialogue dead or not? It depends on the opposition party. Do they want to move forward or backward?
KT: Political tension is becoming overheated. The government is blaming the CNRP for this. Are they right?
Mr. Mouly: Of course. Maybe this is because the opposition leaders are concerned about losing their popularity from local supporters after 55 CNRP lawmakers decided to join the National Assembly. During the protests [that preceded this], the CNRP leaders promised too much to the people, including that they would refuse to join the National Assembly. But finally, the CNRP lawmakers were happy to join.
So, they have been trying to find new ways and mechanisms to exacerbate problems, including immigration and border issues to manipulate the people and win their hearts.
KT: Do you think that the CPP can win the next national election?
Mr. Mouly: Well, deep reforms are being implemented across all public-service sectors with an emphasis on efficiency and professionalism to develop and improve the economy. This includes fighting corruption and reforming public finance. Salaries of public officials are rising and the delivery mechanisms of public services are improving.
However, these deep reforms do not mean that the government is doing something with the purpose of winning votes. It is the government’s duty to serve the people to improve their living conditions.
On a personal note, I strongly hope that the CPP will be victorious in the 2018 election and will lead the government in the next mandate.