In an attempt to paint the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as a divisive body, the government on Wednesday released a 2008 audio clip from a Bayon TV program featuring Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha—now the party’s president and vice president—taking potshots at each other.
When SRP and Human Rights Party rivals, Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha had a history of barb-trading, but they buried the hatchet and last year, after several failed attempts, their parties merged and the two leaders united to galvanize voters to support the newly-formed CNRP.
Sathya Rak, a political analyst for Bayon TV—which is owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana—said he put the clip together to warn voters that the opposition would not be able to lead as a cohesive unit.
“In the past…they told the public they couldn’t merge, they cursed and blamed each other,” he said Wednesday by telephone.
“We want to show the public the activity and behavior of two politicians—that they are liars and cheats. We want to avoid Cambodia being in a war again. We only told people to consider how to vote and select the leadership of the party.”
The audio was disseminated by the office of the Council of Ministers, uploaded to their website, and also sent to local media organizations. The clip features speeches Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha gave in 2008.
“A new and small party was created as the puppet of the [ruling party]…. You have to consider who is the real opposition party,” Mr. Rainsy says at one point.
Mr. Sokha retorts: “They said we are a puppet, but although they promised not to join the National Assembly after the 2008 election, they entered anyway—who is the real puppet?”
The problem with the audio, according to Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, is twofold because it shows that both broadcast media and state institutions are under the CPP’s thumb.
“Broadcast media is very much under control by the CPP and the government,” Mr. Panha said. “I think this one is violating code of conduct of the media, which should provide equity and balanced news between the opposition and ruling party.”
He added: “But they used state resources and working hours of the state to assist…. That’s a violation.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the audio clip was a “crazy tactic” employed by the CPP, showing they were afraid of the CNRP’s popularity.
Council of Ministers spokesmen Phay Siphan and Ek Tha declined to comment.