Prime Minister Hun Sen has told senior officials not to respond to comments from former opposition leader Sam Rainsy after the exiled leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party urged Interior Minister Sar Kheng to move against the premier.
Hoping to drive a wedge between the two powerful Cambodian People’s Party leaders, Rainsy suggested Kheng should lead a coup to overthrow Hun Sen. But Hun Sen mocked Rainsy and told CPP supporters to “stay still”.
Rainsy, who has lived in exile in France since a warrant was put out for his arrest in 2015 on defamation charges, has long sought to divide the CPP leadership, including suggesting that senior military officials move to overthrow Hun Sen.
In a video posted to his Facebook account earlier this month, he said Kheng should “not let Hun Sen strike first”.
Last week, at a Cambodian opposition demonstration in South Korea, Rainsy pledged to return to Cambodia to “inspire patriotism and arrest Hun Sen, who is a traitor”.
But he added: “We should all go. I will not go alone and let Hun Sen arrest or kill me.”
Hun Sen, however, seems unphased.
“If a dog bites your leg, you don’t bite the dog back,” he said.
In an email to VOA Khmer, Rainsy said: “I firmly believe that Sar Kheng, Men Sam An, and other CPP top officials will topple Hun Sen to save the CPP and avoid a mortal danger for Cambodia because of Hun Sen’s blindly serving China’s interests.”
Lao Mong Hay, a veteran political analyst, said Rainsy needed to “do something because if a politician stays quiet he will lose his influence.”
Separately, on Monday a Phnom Penh court opened a new case against Rainsy over his comments inciting military officials to overthrow Hun Sen.