PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he is willing to take bets at 1/100 odds that the opposition will be dissolved following a court decision due later this month.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party is likely to be dissolved under a Supreme Court ruling on November 16 after the government filed a lawsuit accusing it of breaking recently amended laws governing political parties. Many opposition politicians have fled the country after Hun Sen ordered the arrest of the CNRP president, Kem Sokha, in early September, on treason charges.
Speaking to workers in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, on Wednesday, Hun Sen said he was confident that the CNRP would be dissolved, adding that he would welcome anyone willing to bet against him and would pay out 100 times the wager against the CNRP’s dissolution.
“They said it cannot be dissolved and there will be no dissolution. Now let’s bet. If it is dissolved, I will take one dollar, but if it’s not dissolved, I will give a hundred,” he said.
Gambling and casinos are highly restricted in Cambodia, with only non-Cambodians officially allowed to patronize the small number of casinos dotted around border regions and the giant NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh.
Son Chhay, a senior CNRP lawmaker, said the prime minister has the power to dissolve the opposition and that the opposition did not intend to contest the case against it, which it saw as a foregone conclusion.
“We look forward to seeing how the Supreme Court will take action in this case. As stated earlier, we want to see the Supreme Court at least have a clear mandate to judge the CNRP, which represents a large number of people,” he said.
The CNRP is accused of associating with convicted criminals after amendments to political parties laws were passed in recent years making it an offense punishable by dissolution. Sam Rainsy, the party’s former leader, was convicted of defamation several years ago and has lived in exile in France since 2015.
So Chantha, a political science professor, said the rhetoric from Hun Sen was intended to attract opposition lawmakers still in Cambodia to join his ruling Cambodian People’s Party ahead of the CNRP’s inevitable dissolution. If they decline, after the party is dissolved they will be barred from engaging in politics for five years.
He added that the references to gambling on the outcome showed Hun Sen was not a mature leader. “First, people have lost confidence in politicians. Second, the political situation in Cambodia is getting worse. And third, talking about betting impacts the Cambodian court’s independence.”