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In Rare Move, Hun Sen to Hit the Campaign Trail

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the opening ceremony of Khmer New Year in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Friday, April 14, 2017. (Courtesy photo of Prime Minister's Facebook page)

According to analysts, Hun Sen has not directly taken part in political campaigning since 1998.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he will join in with campaigning for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party ahead of local elections next week in an unexpected move for a leader who would normally stay out of the fray.

Hun Sen, who has been in power in Cambodia for more than 30 years, wrote on his Facebook page that he would appear as part of the push to secure votes during the final day of campaigning, on June 2, two days before the polls open.

According to analysts, he has not directly taken part in political campaigning since 1998.

“Some of the people entered Facebook saying that [Hun Sen] didn’t come out to go on parade. For the solidarity and support of candidates of commune councilors of the CPP; in the name of the president of the CPP, I will go on parade to close the election campaign in the coming days,” he wrote.

The CPP will contest more than 1,600 local authorities, called communes, with the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Some 10 other minority parties will also seek to win control of local councils.

Eng Chhay Eang, CNRP deputy president, said he was surprised that Hun Sen would take part in the campaigning.

“I’m happy to see that the prime minister, who is the president of the ruling party, will come to take part in the election campaign. This shows that there will be no conflict for the upcoming election because we have competition with ballot papers,” he said.

“It will be very good if the prime minister ... took another step by discussing politics with the opposition party.”

He added that the opposition welcomed peaceful competition during the election period.

“The competition based on equality will mean winners win with honor and the losers will not be able to complain,” he said.

Tensions have been high ahead of the vote and in advance of a general election next year, with the military and security forces becoming increasingly vocal and politicized. General Tea Banh, minister of defense, recently warned that the armed forces would “smash the teeth” of anyone protesting the results of the election.