Prime Minister Hun Sen described opposition leader Sam Rainsy as “the leader of the thieves” in a radio interview broadcast Tuesday afternoon, before threatening to end the current political detente if Mr. Rainsy does not rectify the wrongs he has committed against the government.
Broadcast on Daem Ampil radio station, Mr. Hun Sen said Mr. Rainsy’s comments on Monday morning that the CNRP would stop “poking” the government on the Vietnamese border issue amounted to an admission that he had been trying to destabilize the CPP government.
“Sam Rainsy and the CNRP’s officials—that is, the leaders of the thieves—have come to confess today,” Mr. Hun Sen said in the interview, which was also transcribed in part on the Fresh News service, a website owned by Soy Sopheap, who also controls Daem Ampil.
“The group of thieves that have destroyed the stability recently have come and confessed…and the ones who created the instability are Sam Rainsy and his party, who always poke behind their backs at the government,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“[Mr. Rainsy] shakes your hand but stands on your foot by using the culture of dialogue to destroy the government,” he added.
“To clear suspicions for Hun Sen, and for the government, Sam Rainsy’s party and Sam Rainsy himself must rectify all points where he has committed wrongs against the government and the CPP, and then the culture of dialogue can move forward.”
Reached by telephone, Mr. Rainsy said that Mr. Hun Sen had misunderstood comments he made outside Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison on Monday after visiting imprisoned activists there. He said that he had contacted the prime minister Tuesday to explain.
“It was a misunderstanding, and I have explained what I meant in the interview, and that it was distorted. Everything is alright now because I explained it to Hun Sen and he seems to accept my explanation,” Mr. Rainsy said.
However, Mr. Rainsy would not explain how exactly Mr. Hun Sen had misunderstood his promise to stop “poking” the government.
“It is difficult for me to expose everything that I said to Hun Sen, but the main point is the result is positive,” he said.
Speaking outside Prey Sar, Mr. Rainsy had said he would halt the CNRP’s campaign accusing the government of complicity in Vietnamese border incursions and in the incorrect placement of border posts.
“If we know they are sensitive, we won’t poke their waists, we will look for a [new] way. When we know they are sensitive, we have to be careful and comfort them somehow to find a result for the nation,” Mr. Rainsy told reporters Monday.
The opposition leader’s comments came after the arrest of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour and 14 other CNRP activists, which Mr. Rainsy has described as a message from Mr. Hun Sen to drop the border issue.
Despite Mr. Rainsy’s claims that Mr. Hun Sen has now been convinced that his remarks were innocent, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the opposition leader might himself be confused.
“The CPP and the government do not misunderstand,” Mr. Eysan said. “It might be his side who has misunderstood,” he said, adding that he did not believe Mr. Rainsy was so naive.
“He is not a child and he is knowledgeable, and when it comes to politics, he is a master of a politician and the party’s president. Before doing anything, he has a proper strategy and tactics.”
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)