The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has denied accusations made by the ruling party that it is seeking an overthrow of the government.
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, made the accusation in a public speech last weekend, saying the opposition has sought to destabilize the government since the 2013 elections.
A Rescue Party spokesman said Wednesday that the party is seeking to win control of the government through legal means: elections.
The row comes amid increased political tensions between the ruling party and the opposition, which boycotted the government for nearly a year after the 2013 elections, on claims they had been marred by fraud.
The two sides have negotiated since then, but fresh rifts have opened over opposition accusations that the government is not doing enough to curb alleged Vietnamese encroachment along border areas. At least 10 Rescue Party supporters remain in jail, on various charges related to demonstrations or the border issue.
Hor Namhong told a group of military officers in Tbong Khmum province on Saturday that the Rescue Party was gathering people to “rise up” against the ruling party and the government and had incited violent protests in January 2014.
“They want to do a so-called cultural revolution, which means inciting to create the riots,” he said. “The riots meant to gather people to create cruel acts against our government. They want a cultural revolution, a color revolution, to overthrow the government. But at that time, I would like to say, [Prime Minister] Hun Sen was already prepared.”
Hor Namhong went on to mock the Rescue Party for staging anti-government protests, claiming they wanted recall elections. “But at the meeting between CPP leaders and the opposition, they did not demand so,” he said. “In a secret meeting at the National Assembly, they wanted a position, the National Assembly’s chairmanship; it was a contradiction. Therefore, their protests were to get higher positions only.”
Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said his party does not have the means to create violence or treason, but will win elections through peaceful methods. Any negotiation has been made on the behalf of Cambodian people and supporters of the Rescue Party, he said.
“Our political vision is different from the CPP,” he said. “We have different leadership, and we’ll join the elections to take over power.”
Meanwhile, Yeng Vireak, president of the newly formed Grassroots Democracy Party, said the CPP and Rescue Party should both spend more time working on improving people’s lives, reducing poverty and curbing graft, “rather than spend their time arguing and framing each other.”