Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday rebuked opposition leader Sam Rainsy for telling a French newspaper that a high-profile dinner between their families last month was an example of how the premier has turned over a new leaf in a life of tyranny.
At an event to launch the Cambodia Industrial Development Policy in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said Mr. Rainsy had given an interview saying that the prime minister was a changed man and wanted to transfer power.
“Upon arrival in France, he gave an interview with Le Figaro saying: ‘Hun Sen might have woken up, that’s why he introduced his children to mine,’” Mr. Hun Sen said. “So, what about my honor? Where do me and my children keep face?”
Le Figaro did not publish an interview with Mr. Rainsy during his trip to Europe last month. However, another French daily, Liberation, asked Mr. Rainsy on July 23 if he really believed Mr. Hun Sen had changed.
“Yes, I believe so,” Mr. Rainsy replied. “Essentially, Hun Sen wants a transition. It’s the effect of age, the realization that his reign is coming to an end. Hun Sen wants his children to know mine, and that they learn to speak to each other so they can work together.”
“He knows that his children will not be able to run the country with an iron hand as he has. He would like his children to pursue a political career in a democratic context.”
Mr. Hun Sen said Mr. Rainsy was being unfair by using the dinner to cast aspersions over his character and his past.
“Even on the issue of the relationship of our two families, he also takes political advantage,” Mr. Hun Sen said, advising Mr. Rainsy’s wife, Tioulong Saumura, a CNRP lawmaker who attended Wednesday’s event, to ensure that Mr. Rainsy was more respectful in the future.
“I hope her excellency counsels her husband,” he said.
Yet Mr. Hun Sen reacted more calmly to other news. In a speech given to Cambodian supporters in Australia over the weekend, Mr. Rainsy described the prime minister’s government as “dictatorial.”
“I send back the message that I’ve heard the word ‘dictator’ for three decades already, it’s nothing strange,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Vachon)