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In Leaked Recording, Hun Sen Seeks to Divide Opposition, Admits Influence on Courts

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, walks with opposition Cambodia Rescue Party Deputy President Kem Sokha, left, during a break at National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.

Hun Sen told local media that the recording had not been edited, while Kem Sokha denied the recording was authentic.

Leaked phone recordings purporting to be back-door discussions between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Kem Sokha are authentic, the premier said this week.

The recording, posted to the pro-government Facebook page Sei Ha, showed Hun Sen apparently trying to divide the opposition by encouraging Sokha to attack the former Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy.

Hun Sen told local media that the recording had not been edited. Sokha denied the recording was authentic.

In exchange for the attacks on Rainsy, Sokha was to have the charges against him dropped and be allowed to register to vote in forthcoming elections.

“You should slap him. You should slap him. You don’t have to speak in public, but rather use Facebook. You should say at a certain point in the future that the prime minister requested us to keep calm during [the festival of] Pchum Ben, so there will be no more politicians commenting or giving speeches that contradict the intentions of the people,” Hun Sen said in the recording.

Sokha allegedly responded by saying that he would indeed make the post online, but do so anonymously.

“I will post that the government and I ask for peace and stability during Pchum Ben. But if anything happens during this period we will not be responsible for the chaos during the festivities,” he added.

Hun Sen agreed. “Post this, just post this, and I will inspect it,” he said.

The prime minister told Sokha that he could not “work with” Rainsy, but could deal with Sokha.

“If you are still attached to him, we will face danger. I’m not afraid even if the U.S. attacks us. If you don’t believe me, you can put it to the test.”

Sokha could not be reached for comment. Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann declined to comment on the recording.

Rainsy on Sunday posted on his Facebook page, urging his followers not to trust the veracity of the recording.

“In any circumstance, even if I do not hold a position in the party, Kem Sokha and I are one,” he wrote.

Sok Eysan, a ruling party spokesman, said the government had no intention of investigating the leak, which could be unlawful.

Sokha was recently elected as president of the CNRP to replace Rainsy following the promulgation of a revised law governing political parties that could have seen the CNRP dissolved if Rainsy had not stepped down.