Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany on Saturday used a Cambodian Red Cross flood relief event in Pailin province to denounce the opposition CNRP’s three-day rally and marches in Phnom Penh last week as part of an effort to “cheat” the people of Cambodia.
Ms. Rany, who has been president of the Red Cross since taking over from the wife of ousted First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh in 1998, was in Pailin to distribute supplies to about 2,188 victims of recent flooding that has killed 168 people nationwide and left more than 50,000 displaced throughout the country over the past month.
After a short speech by Y Chhean, Pailin’s provincial governor and former bodyguard of Pol Pot, Ms. Rany said that the CNRP’s protest was intended only to secure comfortable positions in government for opposition party leaders and that the party was not truly interested in securing justice for the people.
“Every day they are cheating the people to get power—for instance if they give him the presidency of the National Assembly, he would accept it quickly,” Ms. Rany said, in an apparent reference to CNRP President Sam Rainsy.
Ms. Rany explained that she thought the opposition’s efforts to organize the marches in Phnom Penh, during which tens of thousands joined in calling for a change in government, would have been better focused on helping victims of the flooding.
“They say they seek justice for the will of the people but now the will of the people is that they need rice, so why don’t they help out there?” she said, telling people they can only rely on her husband’s long-ruling CPP for help.
“When there are floods or any other incidents, fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters have seen that there is no other party coming to help you here…there is only the CPP because all civil servants are CPP,” Ms. Rany said.
During its second three-day protest last week, the CNRP delivered a petition calling for international intervention in the wake of the disputed national election to the U.N. offices with more than 2 million signatories, while some 25,000 people marched through the streets of Phnom Penh on Friday to deliver notices of the petition to foreign embassies.
Ms. Rany suggested that in the future, the 2 million people who signed the CNRP’s petition should demand compensation for lending their support to the opposition.
“Please fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, next time when they ask you to give your thumbprints, ask them for what reason—whether to give you land, rice or clothes—and then give your thumbprints,” Ms. Rany said.
“If they do not give you a clear reason, do not give your thumbprints,” she told the crowd.
Men Neary Sopheak, deputy secretary-general of the Cambodian Red Cross, declined to comment Sunday when asked whether Ms. Rany’s attack on the opposition party was appropriate for the head of the Red Cross—a worldwide organization whose reputation is founded on its political neutrality.
Mr. Rainsy, the CNRP president, said that he thought the CPP was exploring alternative ways to attack the CNRP after Mr. Hun Sen’s position was hurt in the wake of its shock losses at the election.
“The CNRP leaders and CNRP team have been providing flood relief both before the demonstrations and after the demonstrations,” Mr. Rainsy said. “For the last few weeks at least we have been very active in appealing to Cambodians living outside the country to help provide supplies and we have been very active in flood relief,” he said.
“According to many observers, in fact, we have been more active than the Red Cross,” he added.
The Red Cross is one of the best funded humanitarian aid organizations in the country, with a collection of prominent CPP-aligned businessmen and politicians having hand-delivered donations totaling $14 million to Ms. Rany on May 8 during an event held to mark World Red Cross Day.
The organization, however, was criticized by local officials for failing to provide aid in a timely fashion, particularly in the opening stages of the recent flooding. One provincial Red Cross chief told reporters at the time that the organization had not been able to help people as staff were on holiday for the Pchum Ben religious festival.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, a CNRP member who has criticized both major parties for politicizing recent flood relief, said that the Red Cross has been intensely politicized under Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP government.
“The CPP is still a Leninist party, and so every institution must serve the interests of the party. This has to be understood that way,” he said.