After Rainsy’s Remarks, Hun Sen Warns of ‘Internal War’

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday warned that the country could descend into an “internal war” akin to the Khmer Rouge period if the opposition wins the July 28 national elections, and carries through on a threat to arrest members of the current government.

On Wednesday, self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy leveled a volley of accusations against un­named members of Mr. Hun Sen’s government, accusing them of failing to be held accountable for crimes committed during the brutal 1975 to 1979 Pol Pot regime.

His comments were delivered by phone from the U.S. through loudspeakers at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center on the 38th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to Khmer Rouge forces.

In a speech delivered at the inauguration of a pagoda in Kompong Speu province on Friday, Mr. Hun Sen lambasted Mr. Rainsy without naming him, though references to the latter’s exile made it clear to whom he was referring.

“There is a ridiculous story circulating here,” the prime minister said.

“When the Year of the Snake came, a self-exiled person screamed from America through an international radio to Choeung Ek, stating that he would win the election in July and then he would bring deputy prime ministers and ministers of this government to prosecution,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “He is not ruling in power yet, but he spoke rudely.”

Mr. Hun Sen warned that Mr. Rainsy’s comments about prosecutions were dangerous and could upset the relative stability his rule has brought to the country.

“When the Cambodian People’s Party is the ruling party, everybody can live peacefully together,” he said. “Now, he’s announcing in a political message on April 17 that he would win the election and then prosecute all the leaders, so bitter history would be repeated. The internal war would truly happen.

“I will not bear it and let the arrest happen,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that an internal war and a war with neighboring countries would be unavoidable.

Mr. Hun Sen also said that were members of government to be targeted, it could lead to purges among the police, military police and Royal Cambodian Armed For­c­es, which would lead to anarchy.

“How dare the opposition party that doesn’t rule say that he would prosecute current leaders?”

Mr. Hun Sen said he did not believe that the Cambodian Na­tional Rescue Party, which was formed last year when the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party decided to merge, could make any meaningful dent in the popular CPP vote, because it would need at least 3 million extra votes to do so.

Reached by telephone, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said anyone with an unblemished record had nothing to fear in any future investigations.

“We do not consider anybody the enemy, we don’t discriminate against political leaders,” Mr. Sovann said.

“We just want to eliminate impunity in Cambodian society. Good leaders can stay—they have nothing to worry about. But if you are corrupt or criminal why do you need to stay there? If you did nothing wrong, don’t worry about that. We just want to implement the law on this.”

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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