Tea Banh makes public declaration after opposition leader Sam Rainsy voiced support for the minister's son
Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh gives a thumbs up from inside a Russian Mil Mi-171A2 helicopter during an airshow at a military airbase in Phnom Penh on Nov. 20, 2018. (Photo: AFP)
Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh has publicly backed the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen as a candidate for nation's top job and accused exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy of attempting to split the ruling party.
The support was announced after reports of internal disputes within the ranks of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) as the Southeast Asian nation gears up for polls which may see Hun Sen, one of the longest-serving leaders in the world, being replaced by Hun Manet as prime minister.
Rainsy, the leader-in-exile of the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), had criticized the dynastic transition, saying in a Facebook post that he supported Gen. Banh’s son, Tea Seiha, who is now acting as governor of Siem Reap province, as future prime minister.
“I strongly oppose the Facebook page of Sam Rainsy dated March 10, which contained provocative content. My family and I remain fully supportive of Lieutenant General Hun Manet as the future prime minister,” Banh said in a dispatch carried by pro-government media.
“Rainsy’s comments are an attempt to split the CPP. We must prevent society from falling into instability, insecurity, national division and war again,” he said.
Tea Seiha also distanced himself from Rainsy’s comments, saying that as part of the younger generation of the CPP and as part of Gen. Banh’s family he strongly condemned Sam Rainsy for inciting, smearing and insulting his family, according to a dispatch from the Khmer Times.
“From a young age until now, my father has always told me that in Cambodia, only Prime Minister Hun Sen can lead the country well,” he said.
“My father also educated all of us in the 'Tea' family that no matter what the circumstances, we must remain loyal to Prime Minister Hun Sen.”
Cambodia goes to the polls in July in an election that only the CPP can win following the dissolution of the CNRP in late 2017, which enabled the ruling party to corner every seat in the 2018 general election.
On March 3, former CNRP president Kem Sokha was sentenced to 27 years under house detention and banned from politics for life after he was convicted of conspiring with the United States to oust Hun Sen from power.
The verdict was widely condemned as a plot designed to thwart any opposition at the election, which was defended by Cambodia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva.
In Dara, the ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, accused the world body’s human rights experts of “totally intending to mislead the public as to the nature of the conviction.”
Human rights experts from the UN have stated that Sokha’s trial was “fraught with irregularities, and failed to meet the standards of either Cambodian or international human rights law.”
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