Days ahead of opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s scheduled return to Cambodia, Funcinpec’s Ta Prohm radio station went on the attack.
The radio station broadcast a scathing assault on the opposition leader on Wednesday, accusing him of hypocrisy and committing political suicide. The broadcast was one of a series of such assails.
Speaking in the noon broadcast, Noranarith Anandayath, the station’s director and Funcinpec President Norodom Ranariddh’s cabinet chief, called Sam Rainsy a habitual liar who has left his party members feeling hopeless.
“All [Sam Rainsy’s] words are not authoritative and are tricky lies,” Noranarith Anandayath said in his broadcast. “Opposition party members expressed hopelessness to see their leader whose stance is like an ice block.”
Similar statements were aired by a station newsreader Tuesday.
Sam Rainsy is expected to return to Cambodia on Friday, after having expressed regret to Hun Sen for linking him to the 1997 grenade attack on a peaceful demonstration in Phnom Penh, and agreeing to tone down his criticism of the prime minister.
“Members of the Sam Rainsy Party are disappointed and say this opposition leader swallowed his phlegm,” Noranarith Anandayath said, though he did not explicitly mention Sam Rainsy’s compromise with Hun Sen.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay defended the compromise and called the broadcast “a waste of time.” He added that Noranarith Anandayath may not be aware that Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy have also reached an understanding, after Sam Rainsy expressed regret for accusing the prince of taking bribes to join the coalition government.
“I think they should play more music,” on the station, he said. “Incitement or an appeal is useless,” he added. “Sam Rainsy is away from the country, and we have seen some opposition members have left the party for Funcinpec, so when Sam Rainsy returns, Funcinpec will find it harder to grab [their] support.”
Acting opposition party President Kong Korm said he was not surprised by the broadcast. “The Sam Rainsy Party’s popularity is still strong,” he said. “Funcinpec should work more effectively to strengthen their party.”
Funcinpec spokesman Chea Chanboribo declined to discuss the broadcasts, saying they were the radio station’s responsibility.
Noranarith Anandayath said by telephone that he was entitled to express himself freely. “My statement does not fuel any fire,” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also said the royalist party has the right to free expression, adding that the broadcast does not affect the relationship between Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said personal political attacks like the broadcasts have proved to be ineffective.
He added that he was still waiting to see how Sam Rainsy’s new approach to Hun Sen will work.
“We still wait and see if the situation benefits Sam Rainsy,” he said. “In the short term Sam Rainsy was seemingly stained but maybe in the long term it’s a chance for him to come back and strengthen the party at the grassroots level.”