National debt only $2 billion, he insists
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned opposition parties against comparing him to the late Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, and declared that he was still strong enough to fight them off if a revolution broke out.
“On Oct 23, they said in Phnom Penh that Hun Sen would meet the destiny of Qaddafi. If by [that] they meant they want to start a fight—if they want to fight, Hun Sen is OK,” the prime minister said, speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new bridge in Phnom Penh.
“If you want to make war, I would like to contribute a warehouse of weapons to you. But don’t use violence. You don’t have enough men to use those guns,” the prime minister continued.
Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has compared Mr Hun Sen to Qaddafi on a number of occasions, most recently during a news conference on Oct 23, just a few days after the Libyan strongman was captured by rebel fighters and fatally shot. Mr Rainsy told media on that day that Mr Hun Sen’s future could look like Qaddafi’s. In August, after Libyan rebels captured Tripoli, Mr Rainsy issued a provocative statement declaring that Mr Hun Sen would “meet the same fate” as Qaddafi, and compared him to a number of other ousted dictators, including former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
In an apparent reference to acting SRP President Kong Korm, Mr Hun Sen accused an “old man” of comparing him to Qaddafi.
“That old man said that if Hun Sen wins the election in 2013, Hun Sen must be careful. This old man was also comparing me to Qaddafi. Don’t expect Hun Sen to easily die—my heart is in good condition.”
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he could not recall the party’s statements comparing the prime minister to Qaddafi, but said the SRP did not advocate violence and accused Mr Hun Sen of threatening the opposition.
“These words are normally used in countries with dictatorships,” he said.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the prime minister had merely been trying to mock the opposition party for their own “nonsensical words,” not speaking seriously about the threat of revolution.
“Libya was in civil war, but we are developing,” Mr Yeap added.
Also yesterday, Mr Hun Sen announced that Cambodia’s national debt stands at only $2 billion, contradicting information provided last week by Mr Yeap, the chairman of the National Assembly’s commission on finance, who had pegged the debt level at $7 billion, including $4 billion owed to China alone.
“Some have put forth that Cambodia is in debt to China for about $9 billion, but I would like to make it clear here that up until now, grants, non-interest loans and low-[rate] concessional loans altogether have reached $2 billion,” the prime minister said.
Mr Hun Sen also brushed off criticism that Cambodia was borrowing too much from foreign countries.
“If the lender is not scared, we should not be scared. It should be lenders like China, Japan and Korea that must be scared that we won’t have enough money to pay them back,” the prime minister said. “If we do not borrow from others to keep developing, what can we do?”
Mr Yeap said he did not understand exactly what the prime minister meant regarding national debt but said the prime minister must be right “because he has the documents about that.
“Normally, [Mr Hun Sen] manages all this, so I’m not clear on what he means,” he added.