Second Prime Minister Hun Sen enjoyed his personal Water Festival on Friday, southeast of Phnom Penh, using the occasion to take jabs at the opposition.
Meanwhile, the pro-Sam Rainsy Udom Katte Khmer (Khmer Ideal) newspaper Sunday blasted Hun Sen as “cowardly” for holding his own boat races instead of attending the official Water Festival in Phnom Penh with King Norodom Sihanouk.
“This shows that he trusts no one beside himself and sometimes he is afraid of his own shadow,” the opposition newspaper wrote.
Thirty-six boats participated in Hun Sen’s festivities Friday at Neak Loeung, about 60 km southeast of Phnom Penh. Besides the second premier, boats were sponsored by such CPP heavyweights as Defense Minister Tea Banh and RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan.
“The boat race today is not different from the July 26 elections,” Hun Sen said in comments aired on Apsara TV. “I hope that our sportsmen today are more dignified and brave than a number of politicians in Cambodia.”
Hun Sen described at length the “formula” to determine the winning boat, taking a shot at the opposition protests of the National Assembly seat-allocation formula.
“Any protest about the [election] formula is impossible…just as in a small race such as a boat race the formula which is recognized by all cannot be changed,” he said.
But in the end, there were no losers at Hun Sen’s boat races. The second prime minister announced that the festival commission would dole out approximately $770 to each 40-member boat.
“I hope you will use this money to buy sweets for your children,” Hun Sen said.
Government officials said last week that Hun Sen was too sick to attend Phnom Penh’s Water Festival.
Udom Katte made fun of Hun Sen’s festival, saying “that in order to eliminate his cowardice, Hun Sen changed Khmer custom by organizing a boat race in the place he feels safe.”