The Council of Ministers on Friday held a press conference to rebuke scathing accusations made by opposition leaders during an event on Wednesday to mark the 65th anniversary of Kampuchea Krom being officially ceded to Vietnam.
And Council of Ministers secretary of state Keo Remy made a few accusations of his own.
Mr. Remy—who entered the political arena as a Funcinpec lawmaker in 1998, defected to the Sam Rainsy Party in 2003, helped found the Human Rights Party in 2006 and then joined the CPP in 2008—labeled CNRP President Sam Rainsy a liar.
“We have observed that when [Mr. Rainsy] went to campaign in the rural areas, that he is malicious and says things that are a complete lie,” Mr. Remy said, referring to the opposition’s two-week campaign blitz before last month’s council elections.
“It is obvious that the things he says are exaggerated,” he said. “In Siem Reap, he encouraged the people by saying that if he won the election, he would allow them to build a house [in Angkor] but when he talks with Unesco and other foreigners he says the opposite.”
Mr. Remy also claimed that in past border disputes concerning Preah Vihear Temple, the opposition leader took Thailand’s side.
Mr. Remy punctuated this point by comparing it to Mr. Rainsy’s repeated claims that CPP government has ceded land to Vietnam and allowed Vietnamese to flow freely into Cambodia.
“Is [Mr. Rainsy] the one who loves the border?” Mr. Remy asked. “I praise him.”
“But when we handled the dispute with the Thai government of Abhisit [Vejjajiva] over Preah Vihear, by using law, diplomacy and having our troops on standby at the border, [Mr. Rainsy] stood with the Thai extremists.”
On Wednesday, the CNRP leaders, particularly deputy president Kem Sokha, lambasted the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen for its treatment of Khmer Krom people.
At the anniversary event at Wat Samakki Raingsey, Mr. Sokha said that Hanoi had used the prime minister and the ruling party to “eliminate the Khmer race and Khmer tradition.”
Mr. Sokha said the Koh Pich tragedy of 2010, where 353 people were killed in a stampede, was engineered by Hanoi in order to give the government a reason to call off the Water Festival—a Khmer tradition.
At the press conference Friday, Mr. Remy said those claims could be disproved by the prime minister’s past actions protecting the country. “If [Mr. Hun Sen] has intentionally attempted to eliminate the Khmer race, why did he save the nation from the Pol Pot regime?” Mr. Remy asked.
“I can honestly say that Samdech Hun Sen’s kindness is a big as the ocean.”
Contacted Friday, Mr. Rainsy said the claims made by Mr. Remy had been exaggerated. He said that the assertion that he “stood with the Thai extremists” was “laughable,” and that he hadn’t spoken to Unesco “for years.”
“I simply told the people in Siem Reap that if we came to power we would dissolve the Apsara Authority and make sure the rules were the same for everyone around Angkor,” Mr. Rainsy said.
“At the moment, the rich are allowed to build hotels and big buildings but the poor aren’t even allowed to add a small extension to their house.”
Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Remy fought together against the CPP as Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers from 2003 to 2006.
Asked Friday if there was any chance that Mr. Remy would make a fourth political defection, Mr. Rainsy said: “I hope so, but then he would be back to square one.”