Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday predicted chaos for the country and the demise of the government in the event of his death or resignation—a claim that another senior CPP member subsequently refuted.
“If the prime minister is safe, the people are also safe,” Hun Sen said, during a school inauguration speech in Siem Reap broadcast on Apsara radio.
“If the prime minister dies or resigns, a new prime minister cannot easily be picked, and the whole [government] Cabinet will be dissolved,” he said.
“If I died today…[deputy prime ministers and ministers] will automatically be terminated from their posts,” he added. “There will be chaos…. It is not a funny issue.”
Hun Sen said someone had suggested it was “time for Hun Sen to resign.”
He did not mention who made this comment.
Hun Sen indicated he had no intention of stepping down and suggested he may seek re-election for two more terms as prime minister.
Having just begun his third term and already having served two consecutive five-year terms since 1993, Hun Sen is now one of the longest-serving prime ministers in Southeast Asia. He also led the nation in the 1980s prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
“Now I am 53, and in 2012, I would be 62, and I would not be away. If people vote for me, I will continue,” he said.
Responding to Hun Sen’s speech on Tuesday, CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin said the prime minister could be replaced and denied any chaos would be involved in the process.
“It is not difficult to find another person to take the prime minister’s place if he resigned or was away,” Heng Samrin said.
“There are many people to do the work.”
He added, however, that the party remains supportive of Hun Sen’s leadership.
“So far, the CPP still wants the prime minister to go on,” he said.
Earlier this month, Hun Sen and Heng Samrin gave conflicting accounts of whether the prime minister would remain CPP’s top pick for its prime ministerial candidate in the next election.
While Hun Sen maintained he would seek re-election in the 2008 polls, Heng Samrin said the issue was yet to be decided by the party and suggested that there were other potential candidates.
Though Hun Sen’s latest comments come just days before the CPP’s annual party congress on Friday and Saturday, the CPP has no plans to talk about Hun Sen’s leadership at the meeting, said government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
“We don’t think about that yet,” he said.
During the congress, the CPP plans to appoint more members to the party’s permanent committee, Khieu Kanharith said, but declined to elaborate.
He added there was nothing unusual in Hun Sen to speculating about the future of the premiership.
“I think more than 50 times now” he has brought up the issue, Khieu Kanharith said.
He said Hun Sen was merely restating a procedure outlined in the 1993 Constitution, which states that a new Council of Ministers must be appointed if the prime minister’s position is permanently vacant.
If that were to happen, co-Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng would take Hun Sen’s place as acting prime minister, Khieu Kanharith said.
Since the formation of the CPP and Funcinpec coalition government in July 2004, during which CPP President Chea Sim was abruptly escorted out of the country under armed police guard, observers have noted a widening rift in the party between those close to Hun Sen and those loyal to Chea Sim.
The party officially has denied tensions exist between the two factions.
(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)