Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday stood defiant against a tide of opposition party criticism and daily protests by CNRP supporters calling for him to step down, insisting that he has no intention of doing so, and no idea of what he has done wrong.
Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly on Friday, Mr. Hun Sen said there are no laws that would allow him to dissolve parliament, and under no circumstances would he resign or call another election during his five-year tenure.
“I was elected by the Constitution, so I would only step down by Constitution,” he said.
“Other countries authorize the prime minister to dissolve parliament. But, in Cambodia, under Article 78 of the Constitution, it says that the legislative term of the Assembly shall be five years, and the Assembly shall not be dissolved before the end of its term except when the Royal Government is twice deposed within a period of 12 months,” he said.
Mr. Hun Sen also said that even King Norodom Sihamoni does not have the right to dissolve his government.
“But one more thing: Calling for me to step down—what have I done wrong?” Mr. Hun Sen asked rhetorically.
“If parliament makes me step down, that is one thing. But my resignation is not wanted by supporters who support the Cambodian People’s Party and myself,” he added.
Demands for his resignation are nothing new, he continued, as they have been made since he was installed as the Cambodian leader after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.
He also said that placards and posters calling for his resignation are the work of political leaders, “not common protesters.”
“So, here’s a clarification,” Mr. Hun Sen said: “No re-election, because there is nobody dissolving the parliament and there is no mechanism determining what is allowed in terms of having an election before the end of the mandate.”
In a statement released Friday, local human rights group Adhoc asked that “both sides agree to a mid-term election that can provide a meaningful, lasting, democratic and most importantly peaceful solution to the current stalemate.”
Adhoc said it could only envisage two outcomes should the political deadlock continue and tension mount: that State security forces would violently crush further protests, or that a people’s power movement could sweep the CNRP to power, which would be extra-democratic.
“The CNRP’s demand for both reform and an election in the next few months is unrealistic and contradictory,” the statement says.
“For meaningful electoral reform to take place sufficient time must be given to ensure that a new electoral body can properly fulfill its functions, otherwise the election will be marred by the same irregularities as the previous one. It is for this reason that Adhoc proposes a mid-term election in approximately two years.”
The CNRP has been occupying Freedom Park and staging daily marches and motorized rallies through Phnom Penh since Sunday.
Mr. Hun Sen also said on Friday that the government is prepared to take legal action against the opposition party for a threat it made Thursday to block roads in and out of Phnom Penh.
“Blocking the road will not affect the government and its institutions, but the people,” the prime minister said.
“It is an illegal action, so the government will respond in accordance with legal measures. There is no other option.”
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said by phone on Friday that Mr. Hun Sen’s refusal to step down and continuing defiance in the face of protests was nothing unusual.
“It’s a culture that dictators across the world will never step down easily from power and they never acknowledge their wrongdoing either,” Mr. Sokha said.
He said that Mr. Hun Sen is hiding behind the law when, in fact, he should face the fact that thousands of people are calling for him to resign.
“Whenever there are such calls from thousands of people, and whenever there are a lot of social injustices, the leaders will either bring the case to the table for discussion or resign from power.
“I think he should come to Freedom Park; then he would know that protesters are initiating the demands for him to step down,” he said.
Mr. Sokha said the CNRP vows to press on with plans to block roads leading in and out of the city and that peaceful protests would continue until their demands are met.