Hun Sen Calls For CNRP Sign Vandals to Come Forward

CHOEUNG PREY COMMUNE, Kompong Cham Province – Prime Minister Hun Sen demanded Monday that those responsible for destroying Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) signboards in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces come forward—for their own protection.

Speaking at an event in Kompong Cham province’s Batheay district, the prime minister said those who destroyed the signboards should confess before those who might want to cover up the crime in turn, kill them. Mr. Hun Sen also promised those who come forward will receive a reward in return for their cooperation.

“I appeal to those who have done it to please come out and confess to receive a reward. But please come forward quickly, there are murderers who might kill in order to eliminate evidence,” he said, declining to ex­plain who might potentially kill those responsible for destroying CNRP signs.

“This story cannot be kept secret. Please come out and confess. I will be responsible for your security, but you need to point out who was behind this,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

In the event that the culprits do not come forward, Mr. Hun Sen said he had asked Interior Minister Sar Kheng to investigate the destruction of the signboards in order to clear the name of his long-ruling CPP.

“I discussed this case with His Excellency Sar Kheng and told him to continue investigating even if the election is already finished because it damages the honor of our authorities, and they try to pin the blame on the Cambodian People’s Party,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Interior posted a statement on its website implicitly blaming the CNRP for the destruction of its own signs. The statement said that the vandalism was a “cheap act that was systematically planned to ruin the good environment before elections,” and lend support to those seeking to paint the vote as flawed.

Destruction of the signs, the statement continued, was “to serve the negative purpose of allowing for a denial of the election’s results, which is also what the CNRP has previously said.”

Responding to the statement last week, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann placed the blame for the vandalism squarely on the ruling party, claiming that the opposition’s growing popularity threatened the CPP, leading them to tear down about 100 signs across the country.

Mr. Hun Sen said that the government’s investigation would put to rest any questions about who was actually responsible. The prime minister then made opaque reference to the “U.S.-made” spray paint he said was used in the vandalism.

“The person who did it has to be held responsible, even if it is a member of the CPP. If a member of the CPP did it, the member of the CPP will be found guilty,” he said, adding that other cases involving political signboards that have been defaced with spray paint would be included in the investigation.

“Now I want to send a message to those buying spray paint and using it on people’s faces [on political party signs]. It was transported from the U.S. to Cambodia by two women, a mother and a daughter. And don’t say you don’t know who you are,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“So in Pochentong [Phnom Penh International Airport], they have to check what they plan to use this spray paint for. And please, United States, check into this spray paint too,” Mr. Hun Sen added.

Mr. Sovann said Monday that he agreed that an independent investigation into the destruction of signs was needed, but he doubted that it could be done with the Interior Ministry and the National Election Committee (NEC) controlled by the CPP.

“The point is that the investigation must be done neutrally and independently in order to find out who did this. I am not optimistic that it will happen. I do not rely on the NEC anymore. They [the CPP] control everything,” he said.

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