Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that calls for him to resign and for a new “face” to lead the country were hypocritical as the faces of his critics also remained unchanged.
Mr. Hun Sen also said that the political situation in the country is perfectly normal.
“They talk about the same ‘face.’ If I have the same face what’s the matter?” Mr. Hun Sen asked students at a graduation ceremony on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island.
“I say, logically, his face is also the same, so my face is the same,” the prime minister said, referring to his detractors who he did not name, but he appeared to be referring to opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
During 15 days of protest in December and January, tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched the streets of Phnom Penh calling for the resignation of Mr. Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985. CNRP President Sam Rainsy has also lead the main opposition party for almost two decades.
Mr. Hun Sen also told the graduates that the current political situation—which includes a ban on public gathering and only the CPP present in parliament amid an opposition boycott—was very normal.
“It is normal,” the prime minister said. “The King went to visit the people. The prime minister is working normally. Ministers are working normally, and schools are open to teaching normally. It is all normal.”
Mr. Hun Sen also shared a humorous story to defend his decision in December to only raise the minimum wage in the garment industry to $100 per month despite a strike by workers demanding $160.
“There was an older woman who sold coffee and food,” Mr. Hun Sen told the students. “She supported the demonstrations and she always brought food for the demonstrators. But, when she came back [to her shop], her own staff demanded an increase to $160,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“She said ‘I will stop [supporting the demonstrations]. I will stop. That back-fired,’” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the prime minister’s remarks about the minimum wage protests missed the point completely.
“They protested for a $160 salary because…they could not live” on less, Mr. Sovann said.
“They had to demand an increase to their salary to survive.”