Hun Sen Urges Calm in Lead-Up to Election Mood ‘Calm’

Prime Minister Hun Sen pleaded with political parties to remain calm prior to July’s national elections, and asked representatives from all parties to steer clear of the violence that preceded past elections.

Hun Sen said that he was not officially kicking off the campaign—which by law is not al­lowed to begin until a month prior to election day—but added that, if elected, the CPP would continue to prioritize education reform.

“Please be patient, we must con­tinue to be patient,” Hun Sen said in a speech at a Svay Rieng pro­vince school inauguration that was broadcast nationally Monday.

“The small [parties] have threatened the big. It is like Tom and Jerry,” he said, referring to the cartoon in which a cat and mouse ceaselessly antagonize one another.

“The big and small [par­ties] should not create any problems,” he said.

Hun Sen continued: “You want schools and you also want me to be the prime minister, I told them to vote for me, I will continue.”

“Six months more, it is the election. The people can decide: If they want the CPP to lead the gov­ernment and Hun Sen to be the prime minister just vote for me.”

SRP President Sam Rainsy said the pre-election climate this year is greatly improved.

“Pre-election campaign violence has been calm. It is very different. I feel comfortable,” he said, add­ing that he believes SRP officials have not been provoking their counterparts in other parties and that all parties have basically begun campaigning.

“We all do the same thing…. Sam Rainsy Party officials go from house to house and from village to village,” he said.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that despite there be­ing a defined election campaigning period, there is no punishment for campaigning early in Cambodia. The political climate ahead of the July vote has also im­proved compared to previous elections, he said.

“If we compare to the 2003 election, it is good. It has im­proved. Voters do not feel intimidated,” he said, adding that Hun Sen needs to back up his appeal for restraint by holding perpetrators of political violence accountable for their crimes.

Koul Panha said the government also needs to ensure that par­ties other than the ruling CPP receive equal time on the nation’s airwaves.

“The CPP has dominated the media…. The Ministry of In­for­mation and the [National Election Committee] should give equal opportunity for political parties to buy airtime,” he said.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said political parties can conduct campaign activities, but he also requested that they re­spect each other.


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