Some 200 members of a CPP-aligned youth group knelt down at a riverside shrine in Phnom Penh on Sunday and swore an oath of loyalty to the ruling party, the Cambodian Red Cross and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The stunt was inspired by a challenge Mr. Hun Sen extended to opposition leader Sam Rainsy earlier this month to swear that he should “die through bullets, lightning and everything” if his claims that the ruling CPP stole the 2013 general election were false. He also wanted Mr. Rainsy to take the same oath over his accusations that the Cambodian Red Cross—headed by the prime minister’s wife, Bun Rany—was politically biased in its work.
A few days later, the head of the opposition-aligned Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students, Mao Pises, who supports the CNRP’s claims of election fraud, offered to take Mr. Rainsy’s place if he opted out of the oath. He even sent Mr. Hun Sen a letter—thus far ignored—inviting the prime minister to join him.
Offended that Mr. Pises had the gall to invite Mr. Hun Sen to take such an oath, the CPP-aligned Naga Youth Federation challenged him to take the oath with them instead at the riverside Preah Ang Dangker on Sunday.
“We dare to swear that if the Cambodian People’s Party is not clean, as Sam Rainsy claims, and the Red Cross is biased, let our lives be destroyed by lightning,” said Naga Youth Federation director Pankhem Bunthan. “But if the Cambodian People’s Party did not steal the vote and the Red Cross is not biased, we would like them to lose their lives by lightning.”
“We dare to swear on our lives,” Mr. Bunthan said. “He dares to represent Mr. Sam Rainsy, so we dare to represent Samdech Hun Sen.”
As it happened, Mr. Pises decided that the challenge was beneath him.
He said he stayed away from the shrine because he was still holding out for a reply from the prime minister himself.
“I am not interested in them because my aim is to swear with Samdech Hun Sen,” he said. “I am not afraid to swear, but swearing with them is not my goal.”
Undeterred, Mr. Bunthan and about 200 of his fellow federation members went ahead with their own oath-taking event at the shrine, kneeling down and swearing the “lightning oath,” many of them wearing matching polo shirts emblazoned with a naga logo.
According to Mr. Bunthan, Naga Youth Federation was formed only on January 7 this year and already claims some 30,000 active members. He said the group devotes itself to demonstrating its love for the CPP by donating blood to hospitals and doing other humanitarian work.