A day after he urged people to vote for the CPP, Prime Minister Hun Sen continued with his election messages Tuesday, this time calling for neutrality across the country and urging government authorities to ensure that the vote is free of violence.
Speaking to about 2,500 students at a Royal University of Phnom Penh graduation ceremony at Koh Pich, Mr. Hun Sen said that government employees and members of the military must stay neutral in the lead-up to the July 28 elections.
“I would like to call out to every local government official, government institution and armed forces to remain neutral for the rest of the election,” he said.
The neutrality—or lack thereof—of such people and institutions is an issue that has been raised frequently by the opposition SRP and election monitors such as the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), who have witnessed a number of examples of state resources being used for official campaigning on behalf of the ruling CPP.
“Security and safety must be maintained during the election campaign, congresses and people’s meetings…. I would like to call on every political party and every person; please, don’t allow this election to lead to national fragmentation,” Mr. Hun Sen continued.
He also said party political billboards must be erected fairly and with the support of the local authorities. A number of CPP billboards bearing the faces of its three most senior leaders—Mr. Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin—have already been put up around Phnom Penh.
Although campaigning is forbidden by law until one month before the elections, the prime minister has already urged people to vote for the CPP and warned recently that his ruling party will refuse to fund any further development in the country if it is not voted back into power at the National Assembly come July.
Though violence has fallen consistently and significantly since the UNTAC elections of 1993, Mr. Hun Sen warned that any violence or threats made to members of the public by the authorities would be viewed as “stupid actions.”
Mr. Hun Sen also took the time Tuesday to address comments made on Sunday by Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who likened his fellow party member and opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, to a high school teacher in comparison to Mr. Hun Sen, whom he said was at primary school level.
“Thanks for the comparison; I am happy to accept it,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Kilometers of a journey always start with the first step. Every education starts in primary school.”