PM to Rainsy: Wait un­til ‘horse grows horns’ for Sokha re­lease

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Sokhean

PRIME Min­is­ter Hun Sen on Wed­nes­day slammed op­po­si­tion fig­ure Sam Rainsy’s claim that the for­mer pres­i­dent of his court-dis­solved Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party ( CNRP) will be “re­leased” next month. He said such a de­vel­op­ment would hap­pen when “the horse grows horns”.

Kem Sokha, the for­mer CNRP leader, was ar­rested in Septem­ber last year on charges of “con­spir­ing with a for­eign power” to al­legedly over­throw the Hun Sen gov­ern­ment.

He spent a year in pre-trial de­ten­tion be­fore his re­lease on bail to his home in Ph­nom Penh. Ob­servers have said his bail re­stric­tions are so strict they amount to “house ar­rest”, while the gov­ern­ment has hailed the court’s de­ci­sion as a “hu­man­i­tar­ian” act due to his poor health.

Charged un­der Ar­ti­cle 443 of the Crim­i­nal Code, Sokha, 65, is fac­ing 15-30 years be­hind bars.

For­mer CNRP leader Rainsy, who is now pres­i­dent of the Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Move­ment, made the con­tentious post­ing on his Face­book page on Tues­day evening.

Cit­ing a rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party (CPP) “in­ter­nal source”, he said Sokha would be “re­leased” on De­cem­ber 29 – the day the rul­ing party marks the 20th an­niver­sary of Hun Sen’s “Win-Win” pol­icy – af­ter be­ing found guilty in a “bo­gus trial” and given a royal par­don.

The “Win-Win” pol­icy of 1998 is cred­ited with help­ing bring the rem- nants of the Kh­mer Rouge to en­gage with the gov­ern­ment and so fi­nally end 20 years of civil war.

Speak­ing to more than 23,000 gar­ment work­ers in Takeo prov­ince’s Bati dis­trict on Wed­nes­day, the prime min­is­ter hit out at Rainsy, call­ing him a “liar” and a “cheat”.

He said as Sokha’s trea­son case had not re­sulted in a con­vic­tion, no par­don could be granted.

Hun Sen said: “Sam Rainsy posted on Face­book, say­ing that on De­cem­ber 29 Hun Sen will re­lease Kem Sokha . . . the same day we cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of the ‘Win­Win’ pol­icy, be­cause of in­ter­na­tional pres­sure.

“[Op­po­si­tion] sup­port­ers, please wait and see . . . your boss [Rainsy] is cheat­ing you be­cause [Sokha] has not been con­victed yet – there is no sen­tence to par­don [him from].

“[Rainsy] doesn’t un­der­stand the law . . . Hun Sen does not have the right to sign doc­u­ments re­quest­ing

the King for [Sokha’s] par­don when he is un­der [le­gal] prose­cu­tion and the ver­dict has not been handed down. Now, I have a short mes­sage: ‘wait un­til the horse grows horns.’”

Rainsy, who lives in France to es­cape con­vic­tions seen by some as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, wrote on his of­fi­cial Face­book page late on Tues­day, cit­ing a CPP “in­ter­nal source”, that Sokha would be freed due to “in­ter­na­tional pres­sure”.

Rainsy claimed: “Kem Sokha to be re­leased by the end of this year. The re­lease …will take place on De­cem­ber 29, which will mark the 20th an­niver­sary of Hun Sen’s ‘Win-Win’ pol­icy in his deal­ings with the Kh­mer Rouge.

“But in or­der to ‘save face’ and pre­vent the re­in­state­ment of the CNRP, Hun Sen wants to quickly or­gan­ise a bo­gus trial.

“Faced with in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment will shortly re­lease Kem Sokha, leader of the op­po­si­tion Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP), which was dis­solved by Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen in Novem­ber 2017.

“But to pre­vent the re­in­state­ment of the CNRP, dis­solved un­der the ac­cu­sa­tion of ‘trea­son’ made against Kem Sokha, Hun Sen must get his lu­di­crous claims of ‘trea­son’ val­i­dated court.

“Af­ter t he or­gan­i­sa­tion of a bo­gus ‘t ria l’, t he inev itable guilt y ver­dict will be im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by a roya l par­don.”

Hun Sen coun­tered by ac­cus­ing Rainsy, who reg­u­larly posts on so­cial me­dia, of at­tack­ing the gov­ern­ment to purely at­tract Face­book “likes”, and claimed in­ter­na­tional pres­sure would not make him change his po­si­tion.

“He posts only to at­tract ‘likes’. But his posts only make [things worse] for him. He posts lies,” Hun Sen said. “[He] says Hun Sen re­ceives in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, then would re­lease [Sokha].

“I say [to] this [that] Cam­bo­dia is an in­de­pen­dent state.”

An­a­lyst Hang Vi­tou said on Wed­nes­day that at­tempts by Rainsy to “an­tag­o­nise” Hun Sen are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

“It’s like pour­ing oil on fire be­cause the CPP has both [po­lit­i­cal] and fi­nan­cial power which they do not want to sur­ren­der. So us­ing mock­ery or pres­sur­ing them will not be pro­duc­tive,” he said.

How­ever, Vi­tou added that the gov­ern­ment hit­ting out at crit­i­cism will not make Cam­bo­di­ans unite, but rather fur­ther “split” so­ciet y.

“Only us­ing [cool-headed] strate­gies will bring re­wards,” he said. by a com­pli­ant

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