The resignation of Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was a surprise for Thais on Tuesday, but it came as a shock for several Cambodians interviewed Wednesday who said that something similar could never happen here.
Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party won a snap election on Sunday with what he said was 57 percent of the vote, but the victory came in the face of an election boycott and anti-Thaksin protests that have rocked Bangkok for months. Thaksin on Wednesday appointed a deputy to serve as caretaker prime minister until a replacement is found.
“It couldn’t happen in Cambodia,” said a 30-year-old motorbike taxi driver who declined to give his name.
“Our leaders have struggled since 1979, so they don’t want to give their power away. They have built a lot of schools,” he said.
Pak Oudom, a 24-year-old student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said no demonstration would ever lead Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down, and that there simply was no one to organize one.
“Maybe [Thaksin] is aware that he is wrong and that’s why he decided to step down…. If we compare it to Cambodia it’s better, as some leaders here who are wrong cannot accept criticism,” Pak Oudom said. “Some critics dare not sleep in their own houses. Here they resort to violence rather than peaceful expressions of opinion.”
A student at the University of Human Resource Development, who also declined to give his name, said Cambodian leaders should look to Thailand as an example.
“They should let people have the right to protest. Our leaders should reduce violence against protesters: don’t kick, hit or use weapons to deter and threaten protesters,” he said.
Official reaction was more muted. Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia had no official comment, but expects little will change.
“We expect Thailand to maintain its stability,” he said.
Thai Ambassador Piyawat Niyomrerks noted that Thaksin is still in office, and that after he steps down his party will remain in power.
“It will enhance the stability of Thailand. Because there are differences of opinion within Thai society, by stepping down he hopes that he can reconcile these differences and make the Thai community united,” he said.