Rainsy Says Climate in Cambodia Is Ripe for Civil War

Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has said the government’s decision to strip 27 lawmakers from the SRP and Human Rights Party (HRP) of their parliamentary status and salaries has created the necessary conditions in the country to bring about a renewed state of civil war.

Reacting to last week’s ruling by the National Assembly—which prevents candidates for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) from participating in parliamentary debates—Mr. Rainsy called on the international community to condemn Cambodia’s “totalitarian drift” by refusing to recognize any government resulting from the national election on July 28.

“[B]y expelling all opposition deputies from the National Assembly and in proclaiming, arbitrarily and illegally, the end of their mandates based on universal suffrage, Prime Minister Hun Sen has created the preconditions for a civil war,” Mr. Rainsy said in a statement released on Saturday without saying who exactly would bring about violence in the country.

“Mr. Hun Sen’s resort to force means that Cambodia faces a period of uncertainty and instability which could lead to civil war that he himself has threatened to stage.”

Mr. Rainsy referenced the Paris Peace Agreements, signed in 1991, which he said were meant to guarantee a “liberal and pluralist democracy” and free and fair elections in Cambodia.

“However, less than two months away from legislative elections…. Mr. Hun Sen has decided to simply do away with the parliamentary opposition and to relieve himself of the burden of any pretence of de­mocracy. This has exposed a totalitarian, single-party regime which openly breaches the Paris Peace Agree­ments,” the statement reads.

The 12-member National Assembly permanent committee, made up entirely of CPP lawmakers, took the decision to strip the opposition lawmakers of their parliamentary status on Thursday, arguing that they were in violation of Parliament’s internal rules for belonging to two parties at the same time—those stripped of their parliamentary status are simultaneously election candidates for the newly formed CNRP and lawmakers representing the HRP and SRP.

Although the law states parliamentarians can only be replaced if they step down more than six months before a national election, the Constitution says that there must be at least 120 members of Parliament for the National Assembly to be considered constitutional. With only 93 lawmakers present at Friday’s debate on a law handing out criminal punishments for the denial of Khmer Rouge atrocities, legal experts have since questioned whether the new law is in fact legal.

Mr. Rainsy also said that the government’s attempt to thwart the opposition was “all the more grave in the light of the persistent refusal of Mr. Hun Sen to follow the recommendations of the United Na­tions concerning the reforms needed to ensure ‘free and fair elections.’” Any election result would be dismissed by the CNRP, he added.

U.N. human rights envoy to Cambodia Surya Subedi has called for reforms to be made to the National Election Committee due to its perceived lack of independence.

And election monitors have said 1 in 10 people who are registered for the election do not exist and 9 percent of past voters have been taken off voter rolls unfairly.

Mr. Rainsy is not the first politician to raise the specter of renewed civil war. Mr. Hun Sen himself has often said that the country could fall into a state of chaos if the CPP is not voted back into power come July. He has also said a number of government projects, including a nationwide land-titling program, would simply stop if the CPP does not win the election.

Speaking to supporters on Saturday at the inauguration of a new school in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district, Mr. Hun Sen issued his own warning of upheaval in the country if his party was not reelected.

“I would like people to rethink things clearly. The change of a political party or a prime minister is not normal. If you are angry with your commune chief or deputy commune chief and will not re-elect Hun Sen, Chea Sim or Heng Samrin and the CPP, it will lead to chaos across the nation,” he said. “If you choose the wrong lawmakers and prime minister, it will cause national destruction.”

Reacting to Mr. Rainsy’s views that Mr. Hun Sen has created the conditions for a civil war in the country, spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said Mr. Rainsy was instigating people to use violence.

“Sam Rainsy is creating a state of civil war by inciting people. He is creating a state of psychological warfare between Cambodians and making divisions between Cambodia and the government,” he said.

He also added that the decision to strip the opposition lawmakers of their status was done in accordance with the National Assembly’s internal rules as lawmakers are not allowed to belong to two political parties at the same time

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