Prime Minister Hun Sen released a three-page statement Thursday claiming there were “no differences” between what opposition leader Sam Rainsy would do to the country if he won the next election and the destruction Pol Pot wrought during his three years in power.
Posted to Mr. Hun Sen’s official Facebook page, and titled “The Most Dangerous Policy,” the statement renewed the prime minister’s warnings that if Mr. Rainsy’s CNRP won the election, class tensions would boil over into full-blown civil war.
“If the CNRP wins, they will create a court in order to convict businessmen whom they accuse of doing business illegally,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote. “If they win, they will confiscate property from the rich who do business wrong.”
He explained that such a proposal reminded him of a Khmer Rouge policy released in February 1975 to execute the seven top leaders of the Lon Nol regime once the Khmer Rouge came to power.
“Such language, I heard the Pol Pot group—who at the time were called Norodom Sihanouk’s front—say from 1974 to April 1975, before the fall of the Lon Nol regime: that…they would convict the seven figures,” he said.
“After they won on April 17, 1975, conflicts developed, and they not only convicted those seven figures but convicted all the people in the country in general.”
Mr. Rainsy has said that a future CNRP government would create an independent tribunal to investigate and correct cases in which wealthy businesspeople have taken land from the poor.
Yet Mr. Hun Sen said such plans would inevitably lead to chaos as people slighted by three decades of CPP rule would consider a CNRP victory to be their chance to enact revenge, just like after Lon Nol’s fall.
“Who will be the accusers? Who will be the defendants? Will the accusers walk and point at the faces of the defendants—who will be called evil merchants and illegal businessmen—according to…their wishes for revenge, like the Pol Pot generation’s revenge?” he said.
“It’s very clear there are no differences, as [the CNRP] presently consider those with property to be their enemies. Class warfare will occur and become civil war.”
Mr. Rainsy, who, unlike Mr. Hun Sen, was never a member of the Khmer Rouge, said he did not understand why the prime minister regularly made references to the dictatorial regime under which he served as a battalion commander.
“I find it very strange that Mr. Hun Sen always refers to the Khmer Rouge as the basis for comparison. Why does he always refer to the Khmer Rouge? Why such an obsession related to the Khmer Rouge?” Mr. Rainsy asked.
“When we advocate something totally different to now, and something Hun Sen has never been able to achieve, his worldview is so narrow that he can only see Khmer Rouge. The idea of an independent tribunal has nothing to do with the Khmer Rouge. It’s the opposite.”
Mr. Rainsy said he was only calling for Cambodia’s current laws to be implemented in cases of land theft and had no plans for a future land tribunal to be used as a way to tear up the present property rights framework.
“Thousands of farmers have been expelled from their land, and their land has been given to the big businessmen. Any tribunal worth its name implementing existing laws would have condemned them, but the problem is they are the financial cronies of the powerful.”
In his letter Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen also attacked Mr. Rainsy over a video of the opposition leader handing out certificates on Sunday to students taking part in an I.T. training program at the CNRP’s headquarters.
In the video, Mr. Rainsy bemoaned the fact that most degrees handed out by Cambodian universities are “worthless” due to the poor quality of the education system. Mr. Hun Sen said that Mr. Rainsy was being unfair.
“It is a serious insult, not only to students who graduated in Cambodia and are now working, but also to teachers, professors and civil servants, and a number of them voted for the opposition party,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“In reality, the majority of the opposition party’s members and supporters have never studied abroad but studied and received degrees in Cambodia,” he added.
Mr. Rainsy stood by his comments Thursday, claiming that many university graduates have in fact been reduced to working as motorcycle-taxi drivers.
“What I said is that many degrees in Cambodia are worthless. This is because they are worthless and useless. What is the purpose of a degree? It is to help you get a job, and many degrees do not help you get a job,” he said.
“I know countless graduates who have degrees they can put on their walls and they can cover every wall in their house, but what they do is work as motodops and waiters in the restaurants. This is the fact.”