Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday issued a stern warning to CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, saying the ruling CPP would consider removing him from his new position as first deputy president of the National Assembly if he continues to score political points by lambasting ruling party officials.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for a $14-million overpass in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district, Mr. Hun Sen said the July 22 agreement between the CPP and CNRP, in which the opposition ended its 10-month boycott of parliament in exchange for a promise of electoral reforms, was supposed to bring an end to political attacks.
“His Excellency [CNRP President] Sam Rainsy announced a cease-fire, and I announced a cease-fire at the Assembly, too, so perhaps both sides need to control their soldiers,” the prime minister said.
“Don’t just go anywhere and open your mouth insulting others. When other people insult you back, you get angry,” he added.
Mr. Sokha, whose leadership position in the Assembly was part of the July deal, told a group of supporters in Siem Reap province on Saturday that he wanted to unseat corrupt government ministers. He noted that the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers needed the support of just seven CPP lawmakers to boot out a minister through a majority vote of no confidence.
Mr. Hun Sen warned Tuesday that the CPP would instead vote out Mr. Sokha if he continues to publicly criticize government ministers.
“If you want to unseat ministers, we will think of unseating the first vice president of the Assembly,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Which voice is stronger? Be careful.”
The prime minister suggested that a new candidate could be nominated to replace Mr. Sokha if he did not observe the political truce.
“I would like to send a message to have a cease-fire,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
The prime minister likened politics to boxing, saying those who attacked their opponents carelessly would sooner or later end up on the receiving end of the beating.
“In the first round, the blue corner knocked down the red corner for a count,” he said. “The red corner was knocked down again in the second round. But when the red corner stood up, the blue corner was knocked down because he was trying to attack carelessly.
“I like such games where I don’t attack first, because I will get the result if I attack back,” he added.
Mr. Sokha could not be reached Tuesday.
However, he told news website Thmey Thmey on Tuesday that he had not intended to insult CPP politicians.
“Kem Sokha never insults anyone, never threatens, and never yells at anyone,” he said in a recording of the interview posted online.
Mr. Sokha also said the CNRP was fully aware that the CPP maintained majority control of the National Assembly when the opposition party agreed to end its boycott.
“We entered the Assembly to help our nation, but we knew that we would face a lot of obstacles,” he said. “And we also don’t mean that we don’t know the CPP has 50 [percent] plus one vote in the Assembly, but we entered the Assembly because we have this agreement.”
On August 27, the CNRP cried foul when CPP lawmakers blocked the election of prominent opposition lawmakers Mu Sochua and Yim Sovann onto the parliamentary commissions they were planning to chair as part of the July 22 deal.
Mr. Sokha said Tuesday the Cambodian people would be the ones to judge the CPP if it ultimately reneged on the deal, which ended a yearlong political deadlock.
“If they don’t respect the agreement, the citizens will make their evaluation,” he said.