Introducing a sinister new edge to the country’s ongoing political tension, CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap on Thursday raised the question as to why opposition party leader Sam Rainsy had not yet died in a plane crash.
However, Mr. Yeap denied on Friday that he wished to see the opposition leader’s death, but had simply raised the question because of Mr. Rainsy’s frequent international air travel and the “turmoil” he had caused the country.
In a radio interview on Thursday, Mr. Yeap took aim at the CNRP president’s politicking and the quality of the time he spends in Cambodia when he is not abroad. Mr. Rainsy is currently on an international tour to press foreign governments and aid donors to cease recognition of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s newly formed government.
“I am wondering why Sam Rainsy has such [bad] ideas,” Mr. Yeap said in the radio interview. “While flying, why doesn’t the plane he is boarding crash to his death?”
Mr. Yeap added: “And the second is that when [the plane is] landing, he causes all kinds of turmoil to Cambodia. That is why the Cambodian people name the Cambodia National Rescue Party the Boss of Demonstrations.”
Contacted by telephone, Mr. Yeap strenuously denied that his comment about a plane crash constituted a threat against Mr. Rainsy, claiming instead that his words had been misrepresented and taken out of context. Mr. Yeap said that he was simply referring to angels and justly deserved divine intervention for Mr. Rainsy’s wicked political ways.
“I did not curse him,” Mr. Yeap said.
“I did not pray [that Sam Rainsy’s plane would fall from the sky] but if the angels see this, he would face danger,” he said.
“I just mentioned that Sam Rainsy had such ideas to betray the people, the nation, so someday the angels might see, so he needs to be careful. We did not threaten Sam Rainsy—we just informed the public.”
Mr. Rainsy is abroad and could not be reached for comment, but CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann was unimpressed with Mr. Yeap’s remarks.
“Respected politicians never speak like that,” he said. “What we have done is for the interests of the people.”
“Of course it’s incitement, but we do not pay attention to that…. Let the people listen to what he said. In 2018, he will be judged by the people,” Mr. Sovann added, referring to the next national election.
Mr. Yeap’s comment was not the first of its kind.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has in the past alluded to otherworldly entities, claiming in 2011 that “spirits” could break necks to punish his critics. In 2005, he also warned a member of the Sisowath royal family and other would-be rebels to prepare their wills and coffins, because he would “smash” them if they tried to foment an uprising over border demarcation with Vietnam.
Dr. Sok Touch, rector of the Khemarak University and an independent political analyst, said commenting on Mr. Rainsy’s demise in a plane crash had been unsportsmanlike and could cause instability at a time when tensions are running high.
“They should not use these words, because politicians need to maintain themselves as sportsmen when they go into the ring…. This would bring civil war because of the war-like words,” he said.
“When the political deadlock reaches high tensions, politicians should not use impolite words to another party—this will make the political deadlock become even more tense.”