Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday lashed out at the CNRP for claiming that a recent spate of government reforms had been made due to pressure from the opposition party, calling the assertion “a complete lie.”
In a post to his Facebook page, the prime minister blasted claims made by the CNRP that it had exercised influence over some of his new policies, including the decision to exempt the majority of Cambodian drivers from requiring a license.
“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 that it is because of their demands that the prime minister made the decisions,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote.
Over the past few months, Mr. Hun Sen has unilaterally handed down a number of new policy changes, often based on feedback from citizens posted to his personal Facebook page. These include the license exemption and the cancellation of two toll road concessions, as well as an elimination of a fee for property transfers within families.
In Monday’s post, the prime minister said it would be wrong to give any credit to the CNRP for these changes.
“This is a complete lie to cheat the people that the opposition makes with no shame,” he wrote.
The premier appeared to be responding to public comments made by CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha over the weekend, in which he asserted that his party had forced changes to government policy, including the elimination of tolls on National Road 4.
“Some people say our leaders are weak, but all compatriots and especially all activists know themselves that if it was not for the united force that created the CNRP, today maybe National Road 4 would still charge [tolls],” Mr. Sokha said while speaking to opposition supporters in Kompong Speu province’s Samraong district.
He added that Mr. Hun Sen’s November promise to raise the minimum monthly wage for civil servants to $250 had also come as a result of his party’s agitation.
“We still have not got the victory to lead the country, but we have massive influence in Cambodian politics and international politics right now,” Mr. Sokha said.
Since 2013’s tightly contested national election, a number of the reform measures put forward by Mr. Hun Sen’s government have borne a close resemblance to policies proposed by the CNRP as part of its campaign platform, including wage boosts for civil servants and garment workers, free health insurance for the poor and reduced electricity and fuel prices.
Koul Panha, the director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the opposition party was not wrong in its assessment of the situation.
“If there was no strong opposition, there is no way that these issues [would] have been responded to like that,” Mr. Panha said, noting that prior to the election, issues such as civil servant wages had stagnated for years.
He added that Mr. Hun Sen’s insistence that the opposition deserved no credit for the recent reforms was likely made with the 2017 and 2018 elections in mind—as was Mr. Sokha’s attempt to convince voters that it did.
“This is about future votes—for both sides,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Anthony Jensen)