Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday accused the Norodom Ranariddh Party of spreading rumors that he would step down before next year’s national elections and that he was under pressure from the US and Vietnam to do so.
NRP members have led others to believe that, in a recent visit to the Royal Palace, Hun Sen begged retired King Norodom Sihanouk to help assure his place as premier, the prime minister told a class of graduating university students in Phnom Penh.
“They caused trouble, saying that I ran to the retired King and the Queen for help in securing the prime minister’s position,” Hun Sen said.
Hun Sen said the NRP rumor had taken several forms.
“First they said…the West has brought pressure. Later on, they clearly said the US has pressed Vietnam to pressure Hun Sen to resign,” he said.
Hun Sen warned that spreading such rumors could jeopardize a pardon for Prince Ranariddh, who remains outside the country after being sentenced to 18 months in prison in absentia for breach of contract. “Your actions could cause your leader not to be pardoned,” Hun Sen said.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha denied that party members had spread the rumor.
“I, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and other officials never spoke like that,” he said, calling on the premier to prove his accusations with evidence. “Where did Prime Minister Hun Sen get this information?” he asked.
Royal Palace Cabinet Member Oum Daravuth said he was not privy to the May 12 discussions between Hun Sen and Norodom Sihanouk.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said any rumor of US pressure is false.
“There is absolutely no truth to this rumor,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Hun Sen also used his address to talk about land disputes, corruption and the CPP’s critics.
Some land ownership problems arose due to social conditions following the demise of the Khmer Rouge, he said.
“Some people gambled, sold the land and encroached on others’ land,” he said. “Some people were cheated into selling their land to pay bribes to political parties since 1993 to have positions in government.”
Last year’s constitutional amendment allowing a simple majority to form a government, which effectively ended the CPP’s need to form a government with a Funcinpec coalition partner, helped end the practice of selling government positions, Hun Sen said.
“The constitutional amendment has allowed us to reform,” he added.
Hun Sen also called on other parties not to level accusations of corruption for political gain.
“I understand that some individuals and political party leaders want political benefits but they don’t think of the effect on the country,” he said.
“We acknowledge there is corruption not only in Cambodia but in the whole world.”
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday that the CPP also engaged in political patronage but, unlike others, was in a position to act against it.
“The CPP also has the means to distribute positions to those who are faithful to it, who serve its political and financial interests,” he said.
Sam Rainsy added that Hun Sen should not ask for understanding but offer solutions to the current situation.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)