Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday announced that will seek re-election as head of the government in the 2008 national election, while at the same time accused human rights groups of wielding too much power and attacking his leadership on behalf of the Sam Rainsy Party.
“In 2008, I will stand as the candidate [for prime minister],” Hun Sen said at a canal inauguration ceremony in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district Saturday that was broadcast on Apsara television. “If you do not allow me to stand, I will not abandon [plans to run]. This is my right.”
Hun Sen accused the opposition party of using human rights groups to undermine his leadership because in recent months Sam Rainsy Party officials have said they will refrain from verbally attacking the government.
The opposition “said they stopped cursing me directly, but they allow another person to curse me, such as the human rights group,” the prime minister said, adding that the Sam Rainsy Party should continue to be outspoken against the government.
“I want them to curse us because cursing is the wrong way, so people will understand and the votes [for the CPP] will increase,” he said.
Hun Sen went on to criticize the work of rights organizations, saying they frequently overstepped their bounds.
“Everything is decided by the human rights groups, even the fate of robbers,” Hun Sen said.
“The human rights groups never ask the victims or the policemen who are injured,” he said. “They always ask whether [police] tortured the robbers or not. In short, the human rights groups protect thieves.”
Hun Sen’s comments come on the heels of National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy’s order on Wednesday for police to intensify their crackdown on criminals.
“Armed robberies must be eliminated,” Hok Lundy said, during an annual meeting of municipal police in Phnom Penh. “We cannot think about the human rights of criminals who fire back at police.”
During his speech Wednesday, the police commissioner also ordered police to procure two vans, at about $30,000 each, to be used for collecting suspected gang members.
He also urged police to use tear gas more frequently to force criminals out of hiding.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann on Sunday refuted Hun Sen’s claims of corroboration between the opposition party and rights groups.
Though the opposition party and human rights groups often find common ground, especially when it comes to issues of good governance, they don’t necessarily work together, he said.
“They work for the good of the people,” Yim Sovann said.
“Anybody who criticizes the government, [government officials] say they work for the Sam Rainsy Party,” he added.
Yim Sovann said he wasn’t surprised at Hun Sen’s announcement to continue running as prime minister. But, he said: “It is not up to Hun Sen, the power belongs to the people.”
“The people will judge in 2008,” he said, adding that increased poverty may drive people to vote for an opposition party.
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the apparent target of earlier criticism from the prime minister, also denied Sunday that his organization was working with the Sam Rainsy Party.
“We do not have any strategy to cooperate with the opposition party,” Kem Sokha said.
In November, Hun Sen criticized an unidentified human rights worker in a speech, which seemed to allude to Kem Sokha, and decried the rights worker for verbally assaulting him over the nation’s radio airwaves.
Kem Sokha on Sunday acknowledged publicly attacking the government and said he had no intention of relenting.
“We speak the truth about them. We never hide any information. That is why [Hun Sen] could not tolerate and attacked us,” he said.
“I will continue to do our activities since there is reaction from him, which means we did the right thing.”
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann and Wency Leung)