Rainsy, CNRP Women Defend ‘Weaker Than a Woman’ Comment

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and senior female members of the CNRP on Wednesday moved to defend the statement he made during a rally in Siem Reap on Tuesday that Prime Minister Hun Sen is “weaker than a female.”

At the CNRP’s first post-election rally in the province, Mr. Rainsy taunted Mr. Hun Sen by calling on him to follow Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s recent decision to call an early election.

“I appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen; I ask one thing: Mr. Hun Sen, don’t be weaker than a female,” he said, adding, “Why is Hun Sen weaker than a female?” The gibe was taken up by many of his supporters, who marched through Siem Reap sporadically shouting, “Hun Sen, weaker than a woman!”

Mu Sochua, the CNRP’s head of public affairs and a former minister of women’s affairs, denied that Mr. Rainsy’s comment was offensive to women.

“You have to put what he said in context. The full context is that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra put the interests of her nation first and that she was willing to stand down to end a political conflict.”

Ms. Sochua said that Mr. Rainsy meant that Mr. Hun Sen ought to draw on Ms. Yingluck’s example of strength.

“What Mr. Rainsy is saying is that she is a woman. I’ve always said that when a woman leads, she thinks about the national interest. It’s the same when a woman makes decisions, she thinks about the common interest.”

“If he were to say ‘Women are weaker than men,’ I would not accept that from Mr. Sam Rainsy, but I work with him and I know he would never say that.”

CNRP lawmaker-elect Ke Sovannaroth, the head of the opposition party’s working group in Siem Reap, agreed that the comments were only intended to ask Mr. Hun Sen to emulate Ms. Yingluck’s example.

“It wasn’t offensive. He wanted to compare Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in terms of their bravery,” Ms. Sovannaroth said.

Mr. Rainsy also said his comment was taken out of context and that he meant to show his respect for Ms. Yingluck rather than denigrate women.

“It’s very rare to have a woman as a prime minister in this world. What I meant is that we admire Yingluck Shinawatra for her courage and dignity,” he said.

“Even though she has no legal reason to stand down—she is the legitimate prime minister, she was democratically elected, and the opposition to her is weak—she stood down.”

“She happens to be a woman. It just so happens that Hun Sen is less courageous,” Mr. Rainsy said.

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