Politicians of both major parties on Sunday distanced themselves from a leaked draft statement that appears to have been formulated by the ruling CPP in order to be signed by acting CNRP President Kem Sokha.
The statement, a copy of which was sent to reporters by CNRP President Sam Rainsy, condemns any insults against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family, particularly any suggestion that his oldest son, Hun Manet, was conceived during an affair between first lady Bun Rany and a Vietnamese general.
Spokesmen for the CPP, opposition CNRP and Interior Ministry all denied knowledge of the statement.
The leaked statement, dated December 7, is prefaced with the words: “Last night, Samdech Hun Sen asked Kem Sokha to issue another statement…. The draft is as follows.”
“On behalf of the CNRP and myself,” it continues, anyone who insults Mr. Hun Sen’s family is condemned as “comparable to thugs, worse than animals.”
“In case those ill-intentioned persons are found to be members of the CNRP, the party has the right to expel them,” the statement says.
Mr. Rainsy, exiled by the government and living in France, said he suspected that the government was looking for a way to have him kicked out of the party, even claiming that Mr. Hun Sen had “bought” some members of his party to point the finger at him.
If Mr. Sokha signed the statement, those members would claim he had insulted Mr. Hun Sen’s family, Mr. Rainsy said.
“We have the names of the CNRP members Hun Sen has bought and who are set to defame Sam Rainsy but we are not going to name them at this time,” he said.
The statement’s leak comes as a backroom deal to secure the release of five prisoners appears to have stalled. The prisoners, four from rights group Adhoc and one from the National Election Committee, were caught up in a case brought against Mr. Sokha last year that was widely considered politically motivated.
As part of a surprise political detente last month, Mr. Sokha was granted a royal pardon at the request of Mr. Hun Sen with the expectation that the five would be released by the end of the year. But the CNRP has been left waiting for further meetings with government officials.
“We want them to be released,” said party spokesman Yim Sovann, adding that the CNRP was waiting for a meeting. “The people who can do it are the CPP.”
In an attempt to kickstart negotiations over the prisoners, Mr. Sokha last week requested a meeting with Interior Minister Sar Kheng. Mr. Kheng tentatively agreed, according to a letter posted to Mr. Sokha’s Facebook page, but without setting a date or agenda.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan denied that talks had broken down between the two main parties.
“There’s no problem with the culture of dialogue,” Mr. Eysan said. “The culture of dialogue is still alive.”
(Additional reporting by Phuon Chansereivuth)