Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested Wednesday opposition leader Sam Rainsy could face arrest because he incited farmers to march in the capital under the pretext of seeking food assistance.
“The people who are really affected by the flood are busy with their cows and property and children. They do not have the time to come to Phnom Penh,” Hun Sen said.
As many as 600 farmers have been staying at the park across from the National Assembly for about a week, a traditional way farmers petition for help. On Tuesday, the Royal Palace turned them down and ordered them to return to their homes.
Sam Rainsy led hundreds of the farmers on a demonstration that took them to the gates of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Cambodian Red Cross. The march culminated with Sam Rainsy denouncing the Red Cross.
“Was he making a request from the Red Cross, or kidnapping it?” Hun Sen said, adding that Sam Rainsy “is not a beggar, he is a kidnapper.”
Sam Rainsy might be “punished in some way” if he continued activities such as the demonstration “because he disturbs people,” Hun Sen said.
In response, Sam Rainsy said that the prime minister “has no right to touch me. I was not wrong, I was using my right to help poor people who were facing starvation.”
He said Hun Sen may be especially angry because he said in his speech that the Red Cross, which is chaired by Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany, refused to meet because they were “afraid of the ghost of Piseth Pilika.” Piseth Pilika, an actress and alleged mistress of Hun Sen, was gunned down in 1999. The case remains unsolved.
International Red Cross delegation head Seija Tyrninoksa said Wednesday the farmers had a right to protest, but her agency doesn’t allocate food aid. The Red Cross was planning to aid farmers in the areas where need was greatest, she said.
(Additional reporting by Richard Sine)