Cambodia’s strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said the
country risks civil war if the opposition wins polls later this year and
tries to prosecute ex-Khmer Rouge members in his government.
His comments were issued as a rebuke to opposition leader Sam Rainsy,
who has pledged to convict unnamed members of the government over their
alleged roles under the murderous Khmer Rouge regime if his party takes
“For sure, (civil) war will erupt if they (the opposition party) win
the election,” Hun Sen, 62, said in a speech broadcast on national
radio. “He (Rainsy) has not won power, yet he announced that the members
of the ruling government will be brought to trial. Problems will happen
like during Pol Pot’s regime,” he warned, adding that “nobody will be
waiting to be arrested”.
Hun Sen, himself a former member of the Khmer Rouge, said those who
want peace and development in the kingdom should vote for his ruling
Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
His main rival Rainsy, heads the the recently-formed Cambodia
National Rescue Party, but lives in self-imposed exile in France to
avoid prison for a string of convictions that critics contend are
politically motivated. According to local press reports the 63-year-old
on Wednesday used a video address to vow to convict senior officials
accused of atrocities under the Khmer Rouge, alleging they are impeding a
much-delayed UN-backed war crimes trial.
“We could (can) not give up on justice,” Rainsy was quoted as saying by the Cambodia Daily on Thursday.
“The ministers and deputy prime ministers who were members of the
Khmer Rouge are now working in the current government, and they are
hindering the trial,” he said of the tribunal which has two elderly
defendants in the dock. In November, the National Election Committee
(NEC) said Rainsy could not stand in the polls because of his
His party has only a slim chance of gaining enough votes to oust Hun
Sen, who has ruled the country since 1985 and has vowed to stay in power
until he is 90. Rainsy has previously branded Hun Sen a “coward” for
barring him from running in the election and accused the incumbent of
using the NEC to block his bid for office—something the premier has
French-educated Rainsy is one of the most outspoken figures in
Cambodian politics but has lived in self-imposed exile since 2009,
facing a total of 11 years in prison over several charges if he returns.
He has repeatedly expressed confidence his party could end Hun Sen’s 28-year grip on power.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the regime
wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population through starvation,
overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia during their
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly voiced his objection to further
trials, saying they could plunge the country into civil war.