King Adds Voice to Critics of Sam Rainsy

Monarch Backs CPP, Funcinpec In Broadcast

A day after the CPP and Fun­cinpec reprimanded Sam Rainsy for allegedly defaming the government and the monarchy, King Norodom Sihanouk re­buked the opposition leader in rare public criticism of a politician.

“Some people have slandered the throne, the monarchy and our national religion,” he said in a weekly television address, not directly naming Sam Rainsy. He also thanked the CPP and Fun­cinpec for defending the throne in the message broadcast Thurs­day night.

In announcements aired on television and radio Wednesday, the two coalition partners ac­cused Sam Rainsy of trying to undermine the country and the monarchy by calling for people to stand up to corruption in a government of “criminals, crooks and clowns.”

Sam Rainsy claims sources in both CPP and Funcinpec told him the parties would use their claims of sedition to strip his parliamentary immunity and have him arrested. He said Thursday that several ambassadors who spoke with government officials told him no action would be taken against him.

Party officials said they had no  intentions of stripping Sam Rainsy’s immunity, but were only concerned with tempering his tongue. While Sam Rainsy often makes scathing comments against the government, a senior Funcinpec member said, his recent comments have been more serious. “This time it was deeper,” he said. “His statement is not good for the future of Cambodia,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. “You’re asking the people to stand up and fight the monarchy, our religion and the government.”

In statements made in a New Year’s address to the Cambodian people and later in a letter to visiting Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, Sam Rainsy said Cambodians should stop blaming bad events in their lives on kar­ma, and instead insist on reform in the government. He also said Cambodia is ruled by “dictatorial leaders” who “indulge in all sorts of wrongdoings and make lousy decisions resulting in suffering for the Cambodian people.”

“In the process of democracy, it’s good to have an opposition party,” Interior Ministry Spokes­man Khieu Sopheak (CPP) said. “But Sam Rainsy has gone far beyond his role as opposition party leader.”

Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said he believes Funcinpec and CPP will press for further action against Sam Rainsy, despite their assurances to the contrary. “Our rulers wouldn’t stop at just making a statement; they would proceed further,” he said. “These affairs are part of a strategy to subdue critics of the ruling party.

“All of what [Sam Rainsy] said seemed to have factual support,” Lao Mong Hay said. Never­theless, he added, in the harsh words Sam Rainsy chose for the statement, “I sense that he has gone too far.”

While Sam Rainsy is often critical of the ruling CPP, his statement also lashed out at Funcin­pec, which he described as “a morally decrepit royalist party that has no ideology and no strategy whatsoever, except for some unscrupulous princes to compete to become the next king.”

The statement, a diplomatic source said, “is really anti-Rana­riddh, anti-monarchy, anti-Fun­cinpec. He’s really burned bridges in Funcinpec, maybe irretrievably.”

Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara, a CPP central committee member, said Sam Rainsy should not disrespect the monarchy but added the opposition leader’s comments are harmless.  “Sam Rainsy has little power,” he said. “He cannot cause any great problems in the country.”

The two parties held separate meetings in the past week, then met together and decided to issue a common declaration denouncing the Sam Rainsy Par­ty statements, officials said.

The CPP statement was signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly First Vice President Heng Samrin.

The Funcin­pec statement was signed with a party stamp. Ano­ther senior Funcinpec official indicated the decision to publicly lambaste the opposition was made at the very top, and not by party membership.

Analysts said public condemnation of Sam Rainsy’s statements will negatively impact the opposition party and perhaps draw away or scare off support in the upcoming commune elections.

National Assembly member Son Chhay of the Sam Rainsy Party said he was concerned about the attacks against his party leader. “We are all very worried,” he said. “If something happened to our leader, it would be very dangerous for us to continue to work in this country.”

The television and radio announcements have made an impact on the public. Cheng Hour, a watch vendor at Psar Chas, said her family was disturbed by the CPP and Funcin­pec television announcements. “Mr Sam Rainsy looks down on the monarchy,” she said. “I think people should not talk bad about the monarchy.”

Market vendor Keo Hak said there is nothing new in the statements rebuking Sam Rainsy. Her family was watching a movie Wednesday night that was interrupted by the party statements.

“I hate this kind of announcement. It was too many times on the TV. I want to see the movie more than the announcement,” Keo Hak said. “To me it is not important. It is just a simple thing that always happens to Mr Sam Rainsy. He has small power and the government can do whatever to him very easily.”

(Additional reporting by Yuko Maeda, Gina Chon and the Associated Press)



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