You may have to flee your homes. That was the latest pre-election warning message from Prime Minister Hun Sen to the people of Banteay Meanchey province on Friday, where he once again raised the specter of a near-apocalyptic scenario should he not be re-elected on July 28.
Continuing his slew of public speeches peppered with warnings of civil war and near societal collapse should his long-ruling CPP be defeated in the election, Mr. Hun Sen had a simpler yet no less ominous message for the public: “Change is not a game.”
“Voting for the CPP means you are voting for yourself: Voting for peace, political stability and development for yourself,” in terms of roads, schools, hospitals and pagodas, Mr. Hun Sen said.
To vote for someone else, he added, is to gamble with the possibility of receiving such infrastructure, and it might even mean that people “face fleeing.”
The prime minister did not explain what the public might have to flee from, but presented a history lesson of the dangers of changing leaders in Cambodia; a lesson that ultimately focused on the rise of the Khmer Rouge and mass killing in Cambodia.
“Change is not a game,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “After changing Lon Nol to the Pol Pot regime, the genocide occurred,” he said.
He also warned the public to treat the national election with more importance than last year’s commune election, which had no impact on political parties—only local government services, he said.
“Voting in the upcoming election is to vote for political parties and for the prime minister’s position, which involves the turning upside down of domestic and international policies, which could mean destruction,” he said.
Addressing an audience of thousands who turned out for his speech in Poipet City at the inauguration of a new road, Mr. Hun Sen implored the public to return him to office.
“In the near future, we hope people will again vote for the Cambodian People’s Party,” he said, noting that 67.7 percent of the voters in Banteay Meanchey voted for the ruling party at last year’s commune election.
“So, I would like to appeal to people, if they have seen the correct leadership policy of the Cambodian People’s Party, and my right leadership…if you love, like and sympathize…and trust Hun Sen, vote for the Cambodian People’s Party.”
Yem Ponhearith, spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the main election challenger to the CPP, said Mr. Hun Sen’s constant reference to war and instability should there be an election upset amounted to psychological pressure on voters.
“Change is not bad. Why don’t they look at change after elections in Thailand, the United States, France, Singapore and so on? It doesn’t bring instability and chaos for countries,” Mr. Ponhearith said.
Changing the leadership to improve development in the country should be done freely and fairly, he added.
Mr. Hun Sen on Friday also said that he expected more votes in Banteay Meanchey thanks to his student volunteer land-titling project, which had distributed 23,186 individual titles to 13,718 families covering more than 44,000 hectares of land.
Congratulating himself on bringing peace and development to border regions in Banteay Meanchey, including a $72 million road linking the cities of Poipet, Battambang and Pailin, Mr. Hun Sen said that such success depended on political stability.
“Development cannot be started with the instability or war. [We] will try to protect the peace and political stability that we have struggled hard to achieve,” he said.