Prime Minister Hun Sen used the opening ceremony of a dam in Pursat province Thursday to act out a scene of biting political satire by pouring scorn on promises from the opposition CNRP to simultaneously reduce food prices in markets, while increasing prices paid to farmers.
Speaking at the opening of the 120-megawatt Stung Atai hydropower dam, Mr. Hun Sen broke in and out of character as an effeminate man touring markets and making political promises.
“Some people take the opportunity to benefit on two fronts at once,” the prime minister explained. Then he introduced the effete political activist.
“They go to the markets and ask ‘How expensive is a kilo of milled rice?” Mr. Hun Sen said in a whining tone, before resuming his normal voice to confirm with an aide that the rice costs about 2,000 riel per kilogram.
“And they say ‘Euy! It’s too expensive, our elderly people will die! It’s very expensive. 2,000 riel per kilo? If I lead government, I will make only 1,000 riel per kilo, grandmothers and grandfathers,’” he said mockingly.
Mr. Hun Sen subsequently shifted scene to the countryside.
“Then they go to the rice fields and ask: ‘How much is paddy rice per kilo?’ he said, resuming the high-pitch of his mincing market crusader.
“‘800 riels? Euy, die! It’s too cheap! If I lead government, I will raise it to 1,500 riels per kilo, grandmothers and grandfathers.’”
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has lived much of his life in France, makes regular public visits to the markets of Phnom Penh.
One of the CNRP’s seven key policies before the disputed July 28 election was a floor price of 1,000 riel per kg of paddy rice.
In the election’s aftermath, the party also campaigned against Mr. Hun Sen’s government by saying its corruption has led to high inflation.
One independent economist, Kang Chandararot, estimated that Cambodia’s consumer price index rose by 15 percent over December and January, blaming the increase on stricter enforcement of taxes on goods being imported into the country.