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Cambodian PM warns of war if his party loses power

Hun Sen says other political parties want to take from the rich and give to the poor

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen shows indelible ink on his finger after casting his vote at a polling station during local commune elections in Kandal province on June 5, 2022

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen shows indelible ink on his finger after casting his vote at a polling station during local commune elections in Kandal province on June 5, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 24, 2022 06:49 AM GMT

Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that war will return to Cambodia if his long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) loses power, because the policies of opposition political parties include confiscating the wealth of the rich for redistribution to the poor.

He said opposition parties, of which the Candlelight Party is the most prominent, planned to confiscate properties from the wealthy to pay off debts incurred by the poor and also reclaim territory lost to Thailand and Vietnam over the centuries.

“I think war will break out if the CPP does not rule. I dare to say due to two main factors; the use of the opposition’s policy to confiscate property from the rich to the poor, and the process to reclaim the lost territory,” he told a graduation ceremony.

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“In this way, war will surely break out between Cambodia and Vietnam and Cambodia and Thailand,” the prime minister said, referring to Kampuchea Krom; a tract of land in southern Vietnam which was controlled by the Khmers until 1949.

Hun Sen ended a 30-year civil war in 1998 after the capitulation of the last Khmer Rouge leaders, who had devastated this country with an ultra-Maoist doctrine and backing from China.

Opposition parties, including the outlawed Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), have since claimed those associated with the CPP have grown wealthy at the expense of the poor due to corruption and monopolies held by those close to the prime minister.

"Solving national problems does not involve the use of soldiers"

Former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy had also sought to make disputed border areas an election policy – a sensitive issue in this country – before his party was dissolved by the courts in 2017.

“Declarations to help pay off the debts of the people who owe the bank and the policy of waging war to take back the land of Kampuchea Krom that was lost in the past to Vietnam, as well as other policies that propagate the incitement of people to hate the government, [will lead to war],” Hun Sen told students from the Asia-Euro University.

The Candlelight Party emerged from the remnants of the CNRP and Sam Rainsy, who lives in France, has been sentenced in absentia to decades behind bars for attempting to overthrow Hun Sen’s government.

However, Candlelight Party Vice-President Thach Setha told the government-friendly Khmer Times that Hun Sen’s warnings of war were imaginary, partly because Cambodia did not have the weapons to wage a war.

“In this era, solving national problems does not involve the use of soldiers,” he said. “Although Vietnam used to have some bad history with Cambodia, we do not want to go to war with our neighbor.

“But we urge all our neighbors to respect our sovereignty, territorial integrity and not to interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs and they should not send many of their citizens to come and live in Cambodia,” he said.

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