Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday raised concerns that his legacy would be physically eradicated if Cambodia’s electorate were to vote a new political party into power in the upcoming elections, claiming that a new government would tear down public buildings and infrastructure bearing his name.
Speaking to villagers and monks at the inauguration of a pagoda in Prey Veng province’s Mesang district, Mr. Hun Sen said the best way for voters to ensure that existing public buildings remain standing is to vote for CPP candidates, including the sons of party leaders, who are running for National Assembly seats in the July 28 ballot.
“We can see after the Lon Nol coup, they changed the Sisowath High School’s name to the Daun Penh High School, and changed Yukunthor High School to the March 18 High School,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to the date in 1970 that the Lon Nol regime overthrew then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
“With Pol Pot, every remaining building from the old regime was destroyed,” Mr. Hun Sen continued. “So we should not allow this kind of change to occur again because the CPP has made many achievements.”
“If they [the opposition] win, they may destroy all buildings that have Hun Sen’s name on it,” the prime minister claimed, adding that many other buildings bearing the name of CPP Senate President Chea Sim would also risk being destroyed.
In another speech Mr. Hun Sen delivered in March, he said that he and his wife, Bun Rany, had contributed to the construction of 3,539 school buildings in Cambodia, most of which bear their names.
Yim Sovann, the spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said that if the opposition party were to win the election, it would treat existing buildings as property of the Cambodian people, and allow the electorate to decide on the names of schools and other institutions that have been built with state funds.
“We will not destroy those achievements,” he said, referring to public buildings that have gone up in the decades that the CPP has held or shared power.
“Those achievements belong to Cambodian people as they were funded by foreign loans and the government’s budget, which is collected from the people,” Mr. Sovann added. “Those properties belong to the nation and people, so they should be named based on the people’s will.”
During his speech, Mr. Hun Sen once again personally campaigned for Sar Sokha, the son of CPP Interior Minister Sar Kheng and a first-time candidate for the National Assembly in Prey Veng province, promising that Mr. Sokha would care for the province’s existing infrastructure should he be elected.
“[Mr. Sokha] will be a candidate for National Assembly in future elections in order to maintain everything that has been produced by his father, myself and other CPP members,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Mr. Sokha is among four sons of senior CPP officials who will run as candidates for the 123-seat National Assembly in this year’s national elections. Mr. Hun Sen’s own son, Hun Many, will run in Kompong Speu province; Say Sam Al, the son of acting Senate President and CPP standing committee chairman Say Chhum, will run for election in Kompong Cham province; and Ty Dina, the son of the CPP’s Supreme Court President Dith Munthy, will contest a seat in Kandal province.
Defending the appointments of the relatively young CPP progeny, Mr. Hun Sen noted that he and other CPP leaders were younger than their sons are today when they were placed in power in 1979.
“[Sar] Sokha is now 33-years-old. We say they are young, but if you look back at when we started in the government in 1979, we were only 27 or 28. Now they are older than we were and they have a better education than us, so why can’t they do it?” Mr. Hun Sen asked.
Mr. Hun Sen was 27 when he was appointed as foreign minister of the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea in 1979, and 33 when he first became Prime Minister in 1985.
Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Monday that the promotion of young family members of current CPP officials could likely cause a rift within the party, as a number of more qualified members of the party might be overlooked as candidates.
“This decision can make a big change in Cambodian political culture. Now the party has placed a priority on promoting youngsters. What about the older people from 30 to 60? What are they going to do?”