Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng became the latest senior member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP government to accuse the opposition CNRP of attempting to “topple” the government though what he claimed is a “constitutional coup.”
In a posting to the Interior Ministry website on Thursday following a meeting with the Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia, Yuji Kumamaru, in Phnom Penh, Mr. Kheng said that he told the ambassador that the opposition was trying to oust the government by refusing to accept the disputed result of the July 2013 national election, and by calling for a new vote.
“The activities of the CNRP leaders are acts aimed at intentionally destroying the election result in a bid to topple the government through a constitutional coup,” Mr. Kheng told Ambassador Kumamaru, according to the ministry’s website.
“We see that the CNRP leaders have no real will to resolve the political issue in Cambodia,” Mr. Kheng continued, adding that the CPP is prepared to “negotiate at all levels, and at any time.”
Though, Mr. Kheng added: “Demanding a re-election is a demand we cannot accept.”
Defending the outcome of the July election, which numerous national and international monitors say was riddled with irregularities designed to boost the chances of the incumbent CPP, Mr. Kheng said the result of the vote was legitimate as polling day was “better than previous elections because there was no violence and it was free.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann responded to the Interior Minister on Friday saying that it was the CPP who had ignored the Constitution when it proceeded with inaugurating a National Assembly in which only one party has taken its seats: the CPP.
The CNRP’s 55 lawmakers-elect have boycotted parliament in protest at the conduct of the July election.
“Parliament needs two parties but the CPP has used a single party to create it own National Assembly,” Mr. Sovann said.
“Who is making a coup?” he asked. “Who sent the armed forces to kill people on Veng Sreng Street?” he continued, referring to the military police shooting dead five protesters and wounding more than 40 during mass garment factory strikes early last month.
The CPP government has since suspended the constitutional right to freedom of assembly, which legal experts say is illegal.
When asked to explain the workings of the CNRP’s “constitutional coup,” Interior Minister spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak deferred the question to Major General Por Pheak, director of the ministry’s international communication’s department. Maj. Gen. Pheak, however, deferred the question back to Lt. Gen Sopheak.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap was more forthcoming, saying on Friday that he concurred with Mr. Kheng’s assessment of the situation.
According to Mr. Yeap, a coup d’etat does not require troops and CNRP President Sam Rainsy is attempting to topple the CPP government through his activities in Europe and the U.S.
Mr. Yeap said that Mr. Rainsy is trying to “block the nose, mouth and throat” of the country so that “goods cannot be exported from Cambodia.”
“The CNRP’s is a constitutional coup and they are against the Constitution,” Mr. Yeap added.
It was, however, Mr. Rainsy who first used the phrase “constitutional coup” when, in September, he accused Mr. Hun Sen of doing just that when he inaugurated a new parliament with only his 68 CPP lawmakers in attendance and without the participation of the CNRP’s 55 members of parliament.
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