Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha told supporters in Takeo and Kampot provinces over the weekend that they were too smart to be cheated by politicians, going on to reiterate claims that recent government reforms have only taken place due to pressure from the CNRP.
Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at the opposition in a Facebook post last week after Mr. Sokha told supporters that the CNRP was responsible for a spate of populist policy moves by the prime minister this year, including eliminating tolls on some major roads.
“I just send this short message to the opposition to stop cheating the people, because over the past weeks the opposition has taken advantage of what the CPP and the prime minister have achieved by lying to the people,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote on February 22.
In two speeches over the weekend, videos of which were posted to his Facebook page, Mr. Sokha said the prime minister was underestimating voters.
“No one can cheat people,” he told an audience in Takeo on Saturday. “Don’t worry about the ability of me, everybody—current leaders in both the ruling party and opposition party—to cheat people. They cannot.”
In Kampot on Sunday, Mr. Sokha doubled down on his claim that the CPP was making changes because it is facing a strong opposition.
“In any competition, if the person running in front sees that those running behind are still far away, those in front will not try hard,” he said.
“The true things we have to dare to say…it is our achievement,” he said of ramped up government reform efforts, which come more than a year ahead of commune elections and more than two years ahead of the next national election.
Mr. Sokha also bemoaned the failure of authorities to take action against people who make violent threats against opposition officials, in contrast to prompt legal measures unleashed on those who threaten ruling party officials.
A number of Facebook users have been arrested in recent months, including two young men accused of making violent threats against Mr. Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
Mr. Sokha, the head of the “minority group” in Parliament, has been the target of at least one death threat and other threats of violence, but no one has been arrested in those cases.
“When another side with power makes accusations against the minority group, no one bothers with it…even if there is a death threat, no one files a complaint, no one takes action,” Mr. Sokha said. “But if it is a weak person…they will go to jail.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Sunday that Mr. Sokha was misguided if he believed that the CNRP deserved credit for the government’s work.
“The CPP did something with its plan before Kem Sokha or [opposition leader] Sam Rainsy started shouting,” Mr. Eysan said.
“So, [Mr. Sokha] robbed and took the opportunity to take the virtue and achievements of the CPP and the government.”
Mr. Eysan also said he had never heard of any threats against opposition officials.
“Who threatened who? Nobody threatened them,” he said. “If there is a threat, ask how he can freely go to a meeting [with supporters]?”