In a speech broadcast live on his Facebook page Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened legal action against opposition leader Sam Rainsy over a recent claim that the CPP plans to cancel the 2018 national election because it is afraid of losing.
In both his speech and a separate Facebook post, Mr. Hun Sen also repeatedly called Mr. Rainsy a “child of a traitor to the nation.” Mr. Rainsy’s father, Sam Sary, was one of Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s closest aides in the 1950s before being removed amid claims he was plotting a coup.
“I can’t stay calm when insulted by the child of a traitor to the nation,” the premier wrote in his post, taking issue with Mr. Rainsy’s attempt to draw a parallel between the CNRP and the Burmese opposition.
“The admirable victory of the opposition party in Myanmar, which we used to call Burma, has made the opposition leader in Cambodia, who just recently apologized to me on October 29, open an attack on me that once again ruins the culture of dialogue,” he said.
“There are differences in terms of the political regime, society, economy, between the suffering and what is easy,” he continued. “Even the elections are different—Burma has never held an election while Cambodia has held elections five times already.”
Mr. Hun Sen then said Mr. Rainsy would be foolish to compare himself to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma’s independence leader, given his own father’s history.
“Your family cannot compare with Aung San Suu Kyi because one is a patriot, and the other one is a traitor to the nation,” Mr. Hun Sen explained. “The words ‘traitor to the nation’ are not my words, but the words of the royal government…of Norodom Sihanouk.”
“You loudly called me a dictator, so today I call you the son of a traitor to the nation. I am not insulting your family, I am just following what the past generations used to call your father: a traitor to the nation.”
During Mr. Hun Sen’s speech later in the day, he attacked Mr. Rainsy for comments he made to report- ers while in Tokyo earlier this week that the CPP was trying to avoid holding democratic elections.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Rainsy said that “it’s crystal clear now [the CPP] want to avoid the democratic process, any democratic elections in the future,” calling for international pressure on Mr. Hun Sen not to cancel the upcoming commune and national elections.
“Recently, you said that the CPP is scared of losing the election and does not dare to hold an election, and wants to destroy the election,” Mr. Hun Sen said Thursday. “You should have clear evidence or else be cautious that this may involve a criminal case for making an accusation without proof.”
“This action could be defamation, or not, so we will examine the legal paths for this case,” he said. “And don’t blame [me] if there are legal proceedings against you.”
Mr. Hun Sen added that the 2017 and 2018 elections would go ahead as planned.
In an email, Mr. Rainsy defended his statements in Tokyo, explaining that he was merely speculating based on the evidence before him, including the ouster of his deputy, Kem Sokha, as the vice president of the National Assembly.
“To my opinion, acts of violence related to the savage beating of two opposition Members of Parliament and the illegal move to remove… Kem Sokha from his position last month, have created an atmosphere NOT conducive to the holding of elections scheduled for 2017 and 2018,” Mr. Rainsy wrote.
“They may be part of a plan to derail the whole election process, as elaborated in my 26 October 2015 statement. THIS IS JUST MY OPINION,” he wrote.
Responding to Mr. Hun Sen’s remarks about his father, Mr. Rainsy said he believed a child should never be held responsible for his father’s deeds.
“If one day Hun Sen is accused of any wrongdoing before any tribunal, I will be the first person to defend his children—if they were to be morally reprimanded—on the basis that a child is not responsible for the crimes, if any, allegedly committed by his father,” Mr. Rainsy said.
Mr. Rainsy did not comment on Mr. Hun Sen’s threats of a defamation case.
While Mr. Rainsy has immunity from prosecution as a member of the National Assembly, precedent has already been created for ignoring such a right.
In August, Mr. Hun Sen ordered an opposition senator, Hong Sok Hour, arrested and imprisoned for presenting a forged border treaty in a video posted to Facebook.
While the CPP easily had the two-thirds majority in the Senate it needed to formally remove Mr. Sok Hour’s parliamentary immunity, it chose not to do so, citing an exception in the Constitution that allows for lawmakers to be arrested if they are caught in the act of a crime.
According to the legal interpretation, Mr. Sok Hour’s posting of the video online qualified as an example of such a “red-handed” capture, allowing for him to be jailed even with immunity.
Committee for Free and Fair Elections director Koul Panha said at the time that he believed the decision rendered the concept of parliamentary immunity meaningless, and set a precedent that could be used in future cases against any lawmaker.
Like the Senate, the National Assembly can also strip any lawmaker of immunity, but a two-thirds majority of the 123-seat chamber is required, a majority that neither the CPP nor CNRP enjoy.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin has in the past corroborated the Senate’s interpretation of immunity, but declined to comment Thursday on whether Mr. Hun Sen’s threat of legal action against Mr. Rainsy could occur without stripping his immunity.
“I have no comment on the prime minister’s speech. Everybody can express any opinion on legal matters, but it will depend on the courts to administer the prosecution by studying the elements of the crime if a court complaint is filed,” Mr. Malin said.
“If the prosecutor finds there are enough elements to prosecute, they can prosecute,” Mr. Malin added. “I have no further comment on his immunity or whether he is in the same situation as Hong Sok Hour. We can release a clarification on that matter later.”