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Hun Sen Dismisses ‘Subversive’ Opposition Boycott

Cambodia prime minister Hun Sen talks at the opening of the first cabinet meeting, September 25, 2013.

Cambodia prime minister Hun Sen talks at the opening of the first cabinet meeting, September 25, 2013.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said he is determined his government will operate, despite the opposition boycott and what he called “subversive” attempts to “hold our country hostage.”

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party says a fraudulent election in July means a recall vote is needed before it will join the government. It has been holding ongoing demonstrations to call for that election and the resignation of Hun Sen, in what analysts believe is the greatest challenge to the regime’s authority in decades.

“We must not allow any subversive effect to hold our country hostage,” Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh. “But who can say anything? Let them do it.”

“They say the government has the ‘same face,’” Hun Sen then quipped. “But how and where can we change our face, at the plastic surgeon?”

Yim Sovann, a Rescue Party spokesman, said the party is maintaining its position, that the current government was put in power by fraudulent elections and that the current National Assembly is operating without the opposition, in contravention to its own rules.

“I think we have to think about the legitimacy of the current government of Hun Sen, which is unlawful,” he said. “So what is needed is to solve the political crisis and the illegitimacy of the government.”

Sok Touch, dean of Khemarak University, said the government can “operate” as it is, but that doesn’t mean the country will prosper.

“If we look at the economic side, we see that not many investors dare to invest in Cambodia yet,” he said. “Local entrepreneurs are reluctant to take risks, due to the political crisis. Also, we see many security forces being mobilized across Phnom Penh, which demonstrates instability and insecurity in the country.”

Sok Touch advised an end to the political crisis through mutual concessions between the ruling party and the opposition.