Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday threatened to have politicians arrested on the spot if they promised to cancel voters’ debts upon winning the general election in 2018.
The premier said that debts incurred to private micro-finance institutions could not be canceled by the state and ordered officials to detain anyone caught making such claims.
“If it is considered to be an obvious crime, we’ll tie both their hands behind their backs right there and send them to the court, because they cheat. Please do a legal review of whether it could be solved or not. It's an encouragement for people to take more credit and it's like a way to kill people in exchange for votes,” he said
While not mentioning names, Hun Sen compared the promises to those made by the Khmer Rouge, a comparison he has often made regarding the actions of the opposition.
In 2016, Prince Norodom Ranariddh of the royalist Funcinpec party pledged to eliminate debt if his party, which currently holds no seats in parliament, won the election.
Spokesmen for the country’s main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and Funcinpec, could not be reached.
Ou Virak, president and founder of the Future Forum think-tank, said Hun Sen’s order was undemocratic, despite the promises themselves being unrealistic.
“If the Prime Minister threatens to handcuff [them] like that, it will cause fears among politicians. Even if they talk or make promises about other things, sometimes rational, they will still have fears. So, I do not support him to use the criminal law against [such activities], but I support the idea of explaining [the situation to people] to prevent citizens from having blind faith.”
Hun Sen added that he would take a stronger line with micro-finance institutions found to be misselling loans to people.