With nary a sight of Prime Minister Hun Sen since his CPP held on to a narrow parliamentary majority in Sunday’s national election but suffered a major loss of seats, the party on Tuesday sought to quash rumors that Mr. Hun Sen had left the country and resigned his post.
In a statement released Tuesday morning and reported on Bayon TV throughout the day, the CPP insisted that Mr. Hun Sen was still in Cambodia and on the job, ready to lead the government as prime minister in its next mandate.
“Recently there have been rumors that Samdech Hun Sen, vice president of the Cambodian People’s Party and the prime minister for the fourth mandate, had left the country and gone abroad and resigned from his post as prime minister,” the CPP said in a brief statement.
“This is psychological warfare that ill-intentioned people always fabricate in order to poison the social atmosphere. The Cambodian People’s Party would like to clarify that Mr. Hun Sen is currently in the country and carrying out his duty as prime minister of Cambodia as usual.”
The statement went on to thank Cambodians for handing the CPP another election victory and proclaimed that “Prime Minister Hun Sen will remain in the position of prime minister for the fifth mandate.”
The CPP claims to have won 68 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats, 22 less than it won in 2008. The National Election Committee (NEC) has yet to release official results, however. The opposition CNRP, which won 55 seats according to the CPP, has rejected the numbers and demanded an independent investigation into reports of voting irregularities it believes robbed it of victory.
Tuesday’s CPP statement gave no reasons for the typically loquacious prime minister’s silence and seclusion, but party officials offered a few explanations for Mr. Hun Sen’s absence from the spotlight.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Mr. Hun Sen was still mourning the death of his father, Hun Neang, who died of natural causes on July 12 at the age of 89.
“He is still mourning his father,” Mr. Yeap said. “He is not going anywhere.”
Asked about Mr. Hun Sen’s absence, National Assembly Vice President Nguon Nhel suggested that the prime minister was waiting for the NEC to release the official results.
“Only after the NEC releases the results will the CPP issue the information” about how and when it will form the next government, he said.
The NEC said on Monday that it would not release the official results until mid-August.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who released the unofficial results only a few hours after the polls closed on Sunday, declined to comment on the reason for Mr. Hun Sen’s absence from the public eye and would only confirm that the prime minister was somewhere in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
Police once again blocked off all roads around Mr. Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh home by Independence Monument on Tuesday, as they have every afternoon since the election. Mr. Hun Sen’s main residence, however, is located outside Takhmao City, Kandal province.
On Monday, National Military Police spokesman Brigadier General Kheng Tito said his officers were stationed at Mr. Hun Sen’s home in Phnom Penh “in the event of as yet unknown factors.”
After the last national election in 2008, Mr. Hun Sen did not speak in public until 10 days after the vote, and then primarily to censure coalition partner Funcinpec for joining the opposition in a statement calling for the rejection of the poll results.
Mr. Hun Sen was seen in public five days earlier and overheard admonishing Mr. Rainsy, who was then president of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, for threatening to boycott the first meeting of the National Assembly after the vote.
Leaders of the opposition CNRP have been far more visible since Sunday’s election, holding a press conference on Monday to reject the CPP’s unofficial results.