Prime Minister Hun Sen leveled new, increasingly hysterical, accusations against the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Wednesday, even claiming it would take a page from the Khmer Rouge regime and do away with banks if the party is victorious in July’s national election.
“They have said both openly and in whispers that once they are elected they will eliminate everyone’s debt,” Mr. Hun Sen said during a speech in Kep City.
“This is what I mean; the Khmer Rouge has returned,” the prime minister said.
The regime banned money, and famously blew up the National Bank soon after taking control of Phnom Penh in 1975.
“They have to do like Pol Pot and destroy all banks and regulations,” Mr. Hun Sen continued. “The Khmer Rouge, once they took power and entered Phnom Penh, they went to the central bank first.
“They have to destroy the banks in order to liberate the debtors. Otherwise, if they don’t do it, it means they have lied to the people.”
The prime minister also accused the CNRP of charging its election candidates $40,000 each to get their names on the ballot, and claimed that at least one of the opposition’s prospective lawmakers was complaining about it.
“Now, in Kampot province, one [CNRP candidate] is betraying the plan because he is being placed in a bad position,” the prime minister claimed.
Mr. Hun Sen also mocked the opposition’s oft-repeated comment that he was scared of losing the election, which would end his almost 30-year reign over Cambodia—one of the longest stints in power of a modern Asian leader.
“Am I scared? Does my face look like a scared person’s?” Mr. Hun Sen asked. “Is this the scared face of someone who has experienced 105 battlegrounds?”
Mr. Hun Sen was a middle-ranking Khmer Rouge guerilla who later defected to Vietnam and returned to topple Pol Pot in 1979.
CNRP acting president Kem Sokha rejected Mr. Hun Sen’s claim that his party had promised to eliminated people’s personal debts, or close banks.
“He is exaggerating,” Mr. Sokha said of the prime minister’s tirade.
“The CNRP has never said so. We’ve never made such a promise,” he said, before denying the prime minister’s claim that opposition candidates had to pay money to the party in order to stand for election.
“The CNRP has never taken money from members to place them in a position to be a lawmaker,” Mr. Sokha said.
“Normally, candidates spend their own money for their election campaigns.”
One of the CNRP’s candidates for Kampot, Chea Poch, who is also the opposition’s group leader for the province, said the prime minister was leveling such claims because he is worried the CPP will lose its seats there come election time.
“This is just psychological warfare against the CNRP,” Mr. Poch said. “The CNRP in Kampot is strong. We will not defect to the CPP.”