Hun Sen Baits Opposition on Fishery Day

Prime Minister Hun Sen used elaborate metaphors on Friday to suggest that opposition officials would be at fault for any action he might take in response to their provocations.

Speaking at an event to mark National Fishery Day in Kompong Speu province, Mr. Hun Sen drew inspiration from the day’s theme.

The prime minister narrated a fable about a wayward monk who, spotting fish swimming in a pond, deliberately leaves his umbrella near the pond. The monk sends a boy to go and retrieve it, knowing the boy will spot the fish, catch them and cook them for the monk, who is forbidden from killing the creatures himself.

“There are some politicians who do the same—that is why problems have occurred,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “They don’t do it by themselves, but provoke others to act.”

The story appeared to be directed at deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha, who has been living in the CNRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters since police attempted to arrest him in late May for failing to turn up for questioning about his alleged affair with a mistress.

On Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen lashed out at Mr. Sokha for hosting diplomats at the headquarters and calling for mass demonstrations in the event of his arrest.

On Friday, the prime minister drew a second parallel using the example of two CPP lawmakers sitting behind him. One of the lawmakers, he offered hypothetically, is repeatedly poked in the stomach by the other, and therefore retaliates by punching the poker in the face.

“Which one is wrong?” he asked the crowd, whose members replied that the stomach-poker was at fault.

“All people here, as well as diplomats, note this,” Mr. Hun Sen responded.

The prime minister also took aim at rumors that his eldest son, Hun Manet, was fathered by a Vietnamese communist official, suggesting that the instigators of the infidelity rumors were “wrong” and therefore liable for any punishment inflicted. A U.S.-based CNRP member was expelled from the party in May after posting a video demanding that Mr. Hun Sen prove that Mr. Manet was his son.

Political analyst Kem Ley said Mr. Hun Sen misunderstood the role of the opposition, and that the premier’s traditional strategy of using political theater to distract from issues of poor governance was getting old.

“The opposition have their own role: to highlight the bad performance of government,” Mr. Ley said.

“In the last five years, the people access more information and learn a lot,” he said. “But the politicians did not learn, did not update their political culture.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)

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