China’s Official State News Agency Slams Hun Sen, CPP

The official press agency of the Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday published an article that rebukes the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen for failing to deal with political unrest in Cambodia and calls for “serious and deep reforms” in the country over the next five years.

The Xinhua News Agency, whose output is tightly controlled by China’s government, notes the discord in Cambodia since the “disputed general election” on July 28 and cites a number of political analysts in the country calling on Mr. Hun Sen to act swiftly “to restore his popularity.”

The report cites political analyst Sok Touch, in his capacity as a deputy institute director at the official Royal Academy of Cambodia, explaining that Mr. Hun Sen’s declining popularity stems from the CPP’s refusal to reform.

Mr. Touch “attributed the falling popularity of Hun Sen and his party to cronyism, rampant corruption, forced evictions, illegal immigration and lack of an independent judicial report,” it says, emphasizing the effect on youth.

“The majority of young people have supported [opposition leader] Sam Rainsy and voted for the CNRP in Cambodia, where 30 percent of the country’s population of 14.68 million is aged between 15 and 24.”

“Another reason the CPP has lost so many supporters during the past five years is that although the country has seen a sustainable economic growth…many poor people have not been benefitted by this growth,” it adds.

Such grievances toward Mr. Hun Sen from youth and the poor, as well as widespread doubts about the validity of July’s election results, have contributed to a worrying state of instability in Cambodia, the report explains.

“Four months after the election, Cambodia is still trapped in political unrest as the opposition has continued boycotting parliament in protest against the election results,” it says.

The National Election Committee gave the CNRP 55 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly in September, but the opposition party has been boycotting those seats and has held mass demonstrations demanding an investigation.

The CNRP has planned weekly demonstrations in Phnom Penh against the CPP government’s legitimacy starting on December 15.

The Xinhua report, which represents an unprecedented and extraordinary attack on the government of Mr. Hun Sen from the state mouthpiece of China, one of the prime minister’s closest allies, ends by quoting two government officials defending the CPP’s recent moves to begin reforms.

It quotes both Ros Chantrabot, an adviser to Mr. Hun Sen, and Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, as saying reforms will take time to implement.

“We have to wait at least two or three years to see results,” Mr. Chantrabot is quoted as saying.

Political analyst Kem Ley, who is quoted in the Xinhua report as saying he does not believe Mr. Hun Sen is capable of reform in light of his behavior since the July election, said Thursday that the article was a warning from China.

“China needs to maintain the situation here, they need the hand of Cambodia in Asean and on the South China Sea dispute—they need stability here,” Mr. Ley said.

Mr. Touch said that the scathing public rebuke of Mr. Hun Sen was a message from China’s pragmatic leaders that reform can no longer be considered a game by CPP leaders.

“The Chinese are afraid Cambodia could fall into a similar situation to Thailand, and therefore the Chinese want the government to institute these reforms,” he said.

Mr. Siphan said the article from the Chinese state agency was not a rebuke of Mr. Hun Sen or the CPP, but a reasonable assessment of the state of politics in the country.

“We, as an independent state, do not need anyone’s orders to do anything. We ourselves are committed to do things better,” Mr. Siphan said, adding that reforms are underway.

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