Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday called on a group of high school students to vote for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party in upcoming elections in a speech where he also announced a large donation to the school.
The premier was at the school as part of a nationwide tour intended to drum up support for the CPP ahead of local commune elections next year and a general election slated for 2018.
In Tuesday’s speech he encouraged the Bun Rany Hun Sen Bati high school students to tell their parents they should vote CPP.
“Are you old enough to vote yet? Who will you vote for? Right, you are studying at [my] school. Who else would you vote for?” he said.
“Frankly speaking, they [the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party] have not done anything. When you vote for them and ask for a school building but they don’t provide one, what will you do? Please also tell your parents,” he added.
Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman, said he was confident that the voting public would see through attempts to influence their choice.
“I still have trust in people that they will give fair consideration in choosing the country’s leader through elections,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of election watchdog Comfrel, said while it was normal for politicians to campaign for their parties, the use of state resources to do so was questionable.
“If this is done, we should also share the state’s resources with other political parties to carry out such activities,” he said.
“That’s why it’s not transparent. Only the ruling party uses the state properties for political campaigning.”
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, said the expenses for trips such as the current country tour Hun Sen has embarked on are separate from the state coffers.
“They are separate, not mixed together. There are documents to note down these expenses, with no mistakes,” he said.
Hun Sen announced his country tour in July, while the CNRP has been less active in campaigning ahead of the local elections.
Its leader, Sam Rainsy, went into self-imposed exile last year fearing arrest, and its deputy leader, Kem Sokha, has barely left the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters since an attempt to arrest him was made in May.