Prime Minister Hun Sen Thursday publicly warned that if the ruling Cambodian People's Party were to lose in elections, the country would fall into insecurity and instability.
The veiled political warning, which civic leaders immediately refuted, comes just two weeks away from local elections where Cambodians will vote for leaders in more than 1,600 communes—and one day away from the official campaign kick-off.
"If there will be changes, will you be able to have businesses here again? What will happen to you?" Hun Sen asked a crowd at the groundbreaking of a road-construction project in Prey Veng province. "Vendors, artisans and industry workers should think about whether or not they will be able to do business as usual. Will three hundred thousand factory workers and hotel workers be able to have $50 monthly income like now?"
Kul Panha, director of the independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said elections meant differences of opinion, but Cambodia's civic structure could withstand a change of party.
During a campaign, candidates "will do anything to capture attention for their parties and their messages," he said of Hun Sen's warning. "Nonetheless, politicians are mature in their observance of political development in Cambodia."
Cambodians witnessed political violence as recently as 1997, when Hun Sen ousted his then co-prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in a coup that left more than 100 people dead.
"This is the same old threat that the CPP uses," Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker said, "meaning: if the CPP loses the election, there will be war, it will stop building roads, schools, hospitals. This is its method of demagoguery before the election."