Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered a deadly warning to those he accused on Tuesday of spreading false rumors about his health, vowing that the lives of those wishing death upon him would be in danger.
In recent months, rumors have circulated that Mr. Hun Sen is seriously ill and has been receiving treatment abroad. Speculation on social media only intensified as it was confirmed last month that the Council of Ministers, over which he typically presides, had not met for several weeks.
Delivering one of his trademark rants at a graduation ceremony on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island on Tuesday, the premier accused the opposition CNRP of stoking the rumors.
“Such rumors mostly stemmed from the opposition party. If the opposition party leader fails to control this issue, those who face danger the most are you all,” he said.
“I wish to appeal to the opposition leader to seriously look after your members.”
The prime minister’s rhetoric then took a more ominous tone, appearing to warn those who wish death upon him that they would meet the same fate.
“If you wish Hun Sen’s death, you are the first to face danger. It is a place to bury your corpses, I want to say it frankly,” the premier said.
“You are unable to control the situation. The benefit you gain from Hun Sen’s demise is less than leaving Hun Sen to survive, I want to tell you clearly,” he added.
“It had better leave Hun Sen to survive. If you wish Hun Sen’s death, you will be easily vulnerable to the death.”
In his speech, Mr. Hun Sen also ordered the investigation and closure of anti-sex trafficking NGO Agape International Missions, which had cooperated with a CNN report on child prostitution in Cambodia, and urged Facebook users to avoid stirring up false rumors of children being kidnapped for the harvesting of their kidneys.
In reaction to claims that he had gone to Singapore for medical treatment, the prime minister last month went on a public relations drive, making his case using video selfies and photographs of a casual drive.
Despite CPP spokesman Sok Eysan claiming Mr. Hun Sen had not left the country for treatment, Facebook users identified several Singaporean locations the prime minister had visited in his photographs.
Mr. Hun Sen has increasingly made such threats in recent months.
In May, during a speech to Cambodia’s Christian community, he said he was willing to “eliminate 100 or 200 people” to prevent his ouster.
The following month, he appeared to take direct aim at exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, warning his long-time foe to “prepare your coffin,” adding that those who undermined peace would “receive what you deserve.”