Criticism of Ambulance Handout ‘Unacceptable’: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 26 defended the decision by he and his wife Bun Rany to hand out ambulances to the country’s military police last week, saying criticism of the donation was “unacceptable.”

At a ceremony in Banteay Mean­chey province on June 19, the couple handed out 24 South Korean-made ambulances to military police from all the country’s provinces and municipalities. Officials said well-heeled local philanthropists had donated the emergency vehicles.

Speaking at the National Institute of Education on June 26, Hun Sen took issue with unnamed critics of the donation, and others who had taken Bun Rany to task for visiting Cambodia’s troops while dressed in military uniform.

“There was a comment saying, ‘It is strange, giving [the ambulances] to the military police and not to hospitals,’” Hun Sen said. “Another guy said, ‘It was to [acquire] votes, like when Bun Rany dressed in military fatigues.’ It is unacceptable,” Hun Sen said, adding that his ruling CPP had no need to buy votes from the military, and that the handout was a humanitarian gesture.

“Be informed that the armed forces won’t vote for the opposition,” Hun Sen said. “Every day you say that the army, police and military police are corrupt—why should they vote for you?”

Given the criticism, Hun Sen said that he might as well campaign openly for his party. “Since you said so, I do it,” he said. “Please, vote for the CPP all together as a group in 2008.”

SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua accused Hun Sen of campaigning ahead of the designated campaign period for the 2008 national election. Officials should not try to politically sway the security forces, as they are supposed to be neutral, she added.

“Let us all question the prime minister: Why the hand outs to the military?” Mu Sochua said.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said his party likely enjoys support among the armed forces because the party has long called for them to have their wages increased.

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