Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday clarified that opposition leader Sam Rainsy will not gain the same powers that he has as Cambodia’s head of government, despite the pending appointment of Mr. Rainsy as the parliamentary minority leader “with a rank equal to the prime minister.”
Speaking at the National Institute for Education during a university graduation ceremony, Mr. Hun Sen said that Mr. Rainsy’s coming appointment is simply part of a broader reform that could one day see the leaders of other parties in the National Assembly also formally recognized.
“When any party has 5 percent of the seats in the National Assembly, it can create its team leader—both the government party and those outside the government must have their own team leader,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“However, it remains that the team leader of the lawmakers with 25 percent of the votes will be regarded as the biggest, and as the dialogue partner for state leaders on national problems, with a rank equal to the prime minister.”
Yet Mr. Hun Sen noted that Mr. Rainsy was not about to find himself part of a power-sharing deal like the one Mr. Hun Sen brokered with then-First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh before ousting him in armed fighting in 1997.
Mr. Hun Sen noted that the prince, who today holds no elected office, nevertheless remains in a powerless position “equal to the prime minister,” like the one Mr. Rainsy will soon have.
“Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is the president of the supreme council of the king, also has a rank equal to the prime minister but cannot order the armed forces or order the administration,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“This is just an honorary rank and a matter of protocol; he cannot do the work in place of the prime minister.”
Under new National Assembly rules brokered last Friday, Mr. Rainsy will have a “rank equal to the prime minister” in order to allow him to be on equal footing during discussions.
“This is creating a culture of conversation instead of walking to insult each other along the street pavements or shouting,” Mr. Hun Sen said Thursday, in an apparent reference to anti-government marches that Mr. Rainsy led through Phnom Penh following last year’s disputed national election.
The prime minister also used his speech to warn CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, also the National Assembly vice president, against making public speeches criticizing the CPP now that the two parties are cooperating.
“Several days ago, I heard too that he made insults from someplace. Please, insult, but be careful not to insult wrongly. I’m afraid the majority will vote to topple you,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
During a speech to about 250 supporters in Kandal province on Sunday, Mr. Sokha said CPP leaders “have no morality or merit.”
“We know their background, that they are former Khmer Rouge leaders who used to kill people and that they will continue to kill the people without hesitation,” Mr. Sokha told the crowd.
Mr. Hun Sen said that Mr. Sokha should direct such criticism through Mr. Rainsy, as Mr. Rainsy is the government’s official dialogue partner and Mr. Sokha has another position within the National Assembly.
“Don’t forget your position; they let you be the vice president of the National Assembly…. [To be] a coordinator between lawmakers, they don’t let you insult someone.”