Hun Sen Touts Successes, Distances Himself From Local Leaders

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday told voters not to hold it against him if they disapprove of local CPP officials and to vote for him anyway come this year’s national elections in July.

“Please don’t hit the cart if you are angry at the cow. Don’t stop voting for Hun Sen if you hate your commune chief,” he said in a speech in Kompong Cham province to inaugurate a pagoda.

“It’s a national election,” he said. “Don’t be confused, the national policy is set out by me.”

More than 97 percent of the country’s 1,633 commune chiefs are ruling party officials. Given broad authority to manage electoral registers, commune chiefs have come under increasing scrutiny from various independent election monitors who have found irregularities in voter lists.

Speaking at the inauguration of the pagoda in O’Reangou district, Mr. Hun Sen applauded the decision to again raise the minimum wage for what he estimated are Cambodia’s 600,000 garment workers.

“The minimum wage has increased from less than $30 to over $40, then $62 and now $80,” he said. The $80 includes a pre-existing health bonus in the minimum wage of $75, which will be effective in May.”

“That’s why some garment workers can send money to their family,” he added.

Cambodia’s minimum wage is still the lowest in Southeast Asia, and economists and labor advocates have said that $75 is well below a living wage in Phnom Penh.

Comparing Cambodia to countries around the world beset with internal conflicts, such as Egypt, Syria and the south of Thailand, Mr. Hun Sen boasted that “only the CPP can maintain long-lasting peace and stability.”

“The CPP has never changed its symbol. It is simply an angel spreading flowers. So just tick that angel sign [and] you are electing Hun Sen,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen also noted that O’Reangou district was where he lost an eye as a soldier in the country’s civil war in the 1970s.

“O’Reangou is the land where I lost one of my eyes. One piece of shrapnel is remaining in my eye, so sometimes when there is rain and thunder, I suffer,” he said.

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