Prime Minister Hun Sen warned again on Friday that the country’s infrastructure and education sector would suffer in the wake of a loss by his ruling CPP in the July 28 national election, tapping again into an area of concern for many of the country’s rural voters.
Speaking to hundreds of people at the inauguration of a Vietnamese-funded school in Kompong Cham province’s Stung Trang district, Mr. Hun Sen also denied being a puppet of his neighbor.
“When I speak Vietnamese, they allege that I am a puppet of Vietnam, but when I speak English, why don’t they call me a puppet of America?” Mr. Hun Sen said after conversing in Vietnamese with businessman Le Van Kiem, whose Vietnamese investment firm spent $560,000 on the school building in the district.
“I will not be anyone’s puppet—totally not,” Mr. Hun Sen added.
The prime minister, who has ruled the country for almost 30 years, has used most of his recent public appearances to stump for his long-ruling party ahead of the election, and to also warn of the disasters that could befall the country should his party lose, including war, the closure of schools and banks, and the end of a scheme that is providing land titles to rural people so that their land is not grabbed.
He revisited that point on Friday, reminding the public that his student volunteers, who are demarcating land in rural areas and ascertaining ownership, would only be dispatched to finish the land-titling program if the ruling CPP wins in the upcoming election.
“You children have not completed the work, but you have to tell people straight that you will depart temporarily and be back whenever the Cambodian People’s Party wins the election,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to the student volunteers.
Mr. Hun Sen then turned his attention to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)—an amalgamation of the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party, ordering commune officials around the country to broadcast recordings of Kem Sokhun, the brother of CNRP vice president Kem Sokha, allegedly lashing out at his sibling.
He then quipped that the opposition had nothing to offer but hot air.
“NATO exists in Cambodia, but it does not refer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization…it refers to ‘No Action, Talk Only,’” he said of the opposition, before asking Cambodians to think critically about who they vote for on election day, because to make the wrong decision would bring misfortune.
“Don’t hit the ox-cart if you are mad at the cow,” he said. “Don’t make the decision not to vote for the CPP if you are angry with village chiefs, commune chiefs, district governors or police standing on the streets; to topple Hun Sen from power would be wrong, because it is a national election, not a commune election.
“It’s a national election. Voting incorrectly within a day will bring bad fortune for your whole life. Voting for the Cambodian People’s Party and for Hun Sen to be prime minister will get you schools, roads, hospitals, water irrigation systems and plenty more than what exists today,” the prime minister said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that if his party defeats the CPP, “development will be five times better.”
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)