A weekend of sharp rhetoric and political wrangling appeared to broaden the divide between the CPP and Funcinpec, as Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh took a rare stand against Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Hun Sen castigated the royalists and threatened to crack down on “elderly gangsters” and their mistresses.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony in Kompong Cham province on Sunday, the prime minister claimed that unidentified parties had spread damaging rumors that CPP, in alliance with Sam Rainsy Party, would destroy the monarchy.
“They said the compromise between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy would lead to the elimination of the monarchy in Cambodia. It is not a small issue: They informed foreign embassies,” Hun Sen said, adding that Funcinpec is sullying the monarchy’s reputation.
“Those parties who [go by the name of] royalist parties will cause the monarchy’s elimination,” he said. “When a royalist [party] loses to ordinary people, it is finished.”
The speech came two days after Prince Ranariddh, in an unusual moment of dissent, rejected Hun
Sen’s request that Funcinpec split its quota of seats in parliamentary committees with the Sam Rainsy Party.
Without naming a specific party, Hun Sen warned that officials who have lavished money on their mistresses would be investigated and punished.
“Now, we have to crack down on elderly gangsters,” Hun Sen said. “The elderly gangsters have spent a lot of money, some of them bought two villas in France for women. Now, I appeal to France, Australia, the US and Canada—that there are some politicians who come to Cambodia to do politics—to investigate them. How can they have money to buy houses? Is this corruption?”
Contacted on Sunday, representatives of the French, Australian and Canadian embassies declined comment on whether they would cooperate in such investigations.
Hun Sen said soldiers, military police and police officers assigned to protect the mistresses of officials will not remain in their posts. The police “eat government rice—they cannot protect the prostitutes,” Hun Sen said.
He further criticized unnamed officials for allowing their mistresses to participate in corrupt activities, such as selling government appointments. “I will erase the appointments because so far there were appointments through those evil wolves,” Hun Sen said.
He added that the CPP is drafting a law to prosecute officials who have mistresses—a bill he said Funcinpec Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kuntha Phavy was afraid to draft, because it would anger officials in her own party. Ing Kuntha Phavy could not be reached for comment.
Hun Sen, who in October threatened to dissolve the monarchy himself, stressed that no one has the right to do so.
“If someone wants to destroy the monarchy, they have to pass Hun Sen’s corpse first,” he said.
Rumors are afoot, Hun Sen said, that Senate and CPP President Chea Sim and co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng would move to topple his government, should the Constitution be amended to reduce the amount of lawmakers required to form a government.
He did not say where the rumors came from, but added that they are not true. “CPP doesn’t have that habit,” Hun Sen said.
Funcinpec spokesman Chea Chanboribo declined comment on the speech.
In his Friday letter, Prince Ranariddh informed Hun Sen that the Sam Rainsy Party had foregone its opportunity to claim its committee seats following the 2003 national election. “I have no choice but to implement the content of the cooperation agreement between the CPP and Funcinpec party,” Prince Ranariddh wrote.
Sam Rainsy called the letter a sign of the prince’s resistance to reconciliation and democratization.
“The content of the prince’s letter shows that the Prince doesn’t have any goodwill with the spirit of national reconciliation…and doesn’t comply with the people’s will as expressed in the general election in 2003,” Sam Rainsy wrote in a Friday reply to the prince.
But as a concession to Prince Ranariddh, Sam Rainsy wrote, his party would request only one committee chairmanship, plus two deputy chairmanships, two committee secretary posts and two memberships in each of the nine committees. A subsequent Funcinpec party statement the same day called Sam Rainsy an instigator of instability. “Recently, the Prince had forgiven Sam Rainsy,” the statement read, “but within days, Sam Rainsy blasted the Prince and Funcinpec Party, and also provoked a lot of problems.”
But throughout Hun Sen’s speech on Sunday, the prime minister appeared to keep his aim focused on corrupt and powerful officials already within government ranks. Hun Sen noted that the proposed law against mistresses would have a basis in Article 45 of the Constitution, which defines marriage as an arrangement of mutual consent between one husband and one wife.
But observers said the law would be difficult to enforce, noting that mistresses or unofficial second wives are far more common than registered second wives.
“I support that he gives a strong message to fight corruption,” Center for Social Development President Chea Vannath said.
“But private business, we have to deal with privately, and government business is separate…. To fight corruption, we have to do that publicly,” she said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said there have been rumors of wives and mistresses influencing government appointments, but added that setting and adhering to clear qualifications for appointments might better solve the problem. “I doubt if this law would be able to do the job,” he said.
Still, Hun Sen said he personally would submit the law to Parliament and would combat the corrupt wives.“We will erase them,” he said, “just like a slap.”