Prime Minister Hun Sen has made a recent surprise move by participating in the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)’s internal discussions online where blamed former opposition leaders, via “immoral activists”, for the collapse of the previous “Culture of Dialogue” between the two sides.
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was not in the online meeting, has claimed that participation of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president was an intention to negotiate with the opposition.
According to a leaked video clip of the Zoom meeting of the ex-CNRP officials, led by former opposition lawmaker Long Ry on September 9, Mr Hun Sen suddenly appeared on the screen and conversed with Ry.
“I would like to inform you that in politics, if possible, stop insulting each other because your insulting is too much, and how long will the culture of smear last?” he asked the group in Zoom.
He also admitted that he had eavesdropped on ex-CNRP leadership meetings several times.
Mr Hun Sen then accused Rainsy and his group of fabricating immoral information over his death, calling the spreading of such rumours as having “no virtue”. He then blamed them for destroying the “Culture of Dialogue”.
The culture of dialogue began in 2014 when then CNRP president Rainsy and Mr Hun Sen reached an agreement to end the opposition’s boycott of the National Assembly following the 2013 disputed election, which the CNRP refused to recognise as legitimate.
Through that platform, Rainsy was recognised as the “Minority Leader” or the Leader of the Opposition, He acted as a dialogue partner of the Prime Minister who was the “Majority Leader”.
It continued into 2015 when the two leaders and their families had dinner together and posed for selfies used on social media. But the short-lived dialogue broke down months later.
“The culture of dialogue has been created, and through that culture, I have worked hard to put in place the internal rules so that the Minority Leader is equal to the prime minister and has the right seat,” Mr Hun Sen said in the zoom discussion.
In the meeting, Ry defended the ex-CNRP from Mr Hun Sen’s accusation, saying the opposition leaders have never cultivated the ideology of insulting and smearing.
He claimed opposition leaders have always banned their officials from resorting to such an ideology and instructed them to adhere to the principles of fair competition. However, Ry admitted that controlling people is very difficult, so despite their guidance, there are still cases of insults.
During a gathering with his supporters on Sunday, Rainsy also mentioned the participation of Mr Hun Sen in ex-CNRP’s internal meeting.
Regarding the “Culture of Dialogue”, Rainsy replied that it was difficult for him to work with Mr Hun Sen because the CPP leader only accepted opinions that were in line with his own ideas.
“He wanted to say that he was very accommodating with us, so we should not attack him like today, but I want to tell him that we have never attacked anyone,” he said. “We correspond to each other about national issues, we criticise each other and argue about national issues because we protect the people.”
Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said yesterday that morality and virtue are important values of democracy. He said liberal democratic politics must adhere to the principles of morality and virtue.
“It is interesting that some Cambodian politicians talk about virtue. I hope that politicians of all parties will uphold the basic principles of morality and virtue in their politics. Therefore, the Cambodian people should remember to judge Cambodian politicians on the respect they show, their morality and virtues from now on,” he said.