Hun Sen Renews Threat to Strip Kem Sokha of Assembly Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday again warned that he could engineer CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha’s removal as the National Assembly’s first vice president, following a speech Mr. Sokha made accusing the ruling CPP of attempting to split the CNRP as a united opposition.

Mr. Hun Sen has employed a hot-and-cold approach to the opposition’s two leaders since late March, praising CNRP President Sam Rainsy for promoting a new “culture of dialogue” while attacking Mr. Sokha for insulting the CPP—even threatening to jail him.

Speaking in Phnom Penh on Tuesday morning at a university graduation ceremony, the prime minister continued with the theme by attacking a speech Mr. Sokha made in Kampot province on Sunday in which he accused the CPP of employing a strategy to divide the CNRP leaders.

“A person has said the CPP is splitting [the opposition]. I’ve not yet listened to this. Did he say it? If he did say it, that means he has violated the culture of dialogue,” Mr. Hun Sen said, also rejecting Mr. Sokha’s accusation.

“Whether it is true or not, I just have to send a message back that to split or not does not depend on a splitter. The CPP has many tasks, and no time to split you up,” he said.

“Don’t say ‘buy, won’t sell,’” Mr. Hun Sen added, referring to a chant used by opposition members to stress that they will not defect to the CPP even if it bribes them. “Who is buying you? Your head is so worthless.”

The premier then contrasted Mr. Sokha’s speech with a telephone conversation he had on Monday with Mr. Rainsy, who is presently in the U.S. meeting with Cambodians there to raise funds for the CNRP’s new television station.

“Yesterday, Sam Rainsy called me: ‘How are you Samdech? I am in the U.S. explaining to the Cambodian-Americans about the new political norms and am promoting our culture of dialogue,’” Mr. Hun Sen recalled.

“Yet the person in the country [Mr. Sokha]…says ‘split, break up,’” Mr. Hun Sen said. “If you want to split, no one can prevent you. It is similar to a husband and wife: Even if the mother-in-law mistreats them, they don’t split.”

The prime minister said that any more such remarks from Mr. Sokha could get him removed from his leadership position in the National Assembly, which he received after the opposition ended its boycott of parliament last year.

“‘Be careful!’ was my final SMS to Rainsy,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “I told Rainsy, I said: ‘[Mr. Sokha] rose up through the CPP’s ballot and can fall down through the CPP’s ballot, too.’”

“Please send a message: If you continue to attack, you will step down,” the prime minister warned.

Neither Mr. Sokha nor the CNRP’s two spokesmen could be reached Tuesday. Mr. Sokha’s cabinet chief, Muth Chantha, declined to comment on Mr. Hun Sen’s remarks.

The CPP and CNRP released a joint “code of conduct” earlier this month laying out exactly which insults and threats are prohibited under the culture of dialogue. Claims of one party attempting to split the other are not among them.

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