PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has sharply criticized the opposition for comparing Cambodia’s democracy with that in Myanmar.
In a public speech and Facebook posts, he called Sam Rainsy, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, a “traitor’s son,” saying the opposition leader often takes advantage of world history to attack the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
The prime minister said Sam Rainsy’s father, Sam Sary, plotted against Norodom Sihanouk while the late king was serving as prime minister in the 1960s.
The personal attack by Hun Sen is likely to increase political tension between the ruling party and the opposition, which are preparing for elections in 2017 and 2018.
Hun Sen wrote Thursday on his Facebook page that Cambodia and Myanmar should not be compared because of many differences.
"There is a difference in terms of political, regime, social economics, hardships and eases; even the number of elections is different: Myanmar has never had elections, while Cambodia has voted five times so far," he wrote.
He added that Sam Rainsy cannot compare himself to Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Your family line cannot be compared to Aung San Suu Kyi because one is a nationalist while another is a traitor. If there hadn't been any legal compromising, you would have still carried the name 'son of a traitor.' I was not the one who gave that name. It was the ... government of late King Norodom Sihanouk. You called me a dictator, but today I call you 'son of a traitor,' " he said.
The attack came a few days after the opposition leader compared elections in Cambodia with the recent one in Myanmar. Sam Rainsy said the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy “was a good news for all over the world, especially Cambodia.”
He added that the ruling party in Cambodia was attempting to curb free elections in the country in 2018 by creating troubles such as violence against CNRP lawmakers and amendments of the election law.
“It is crystal clear that they want to avoid the democratic process, any democratic election in the future,” he told reporters in Japan.
Sam Rainsy also called on democratic nations, especially Japan, to pay more attention to political developments in Cambodia ahead of the 2018 elections to ensure free and fair voting.
The CPP and CNRP agreed in May to stop insulting each other as part of a "culture of dialogue," which has been shaken in recent months, with violence against opposition lawmakers.
But Ou Vireak, head of a local research group called Future Forum, said the exchange of harsh words between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy reflected the morality of Cambodian politicians.
The Myanmar election and its results are being widely seen and talked about in Cambodia. But Ou Vireak said Cambodia should not use Myanmar as a model, since the country is still under the control by military.
He said, “Myanmar still has many challenges and cannot be a model for Cambodia. The first challenge is that the military still holds power, controlling the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, borders, as well as big firms and the nation's economy. Thus, the military still has influence militarily and economically. Aung San Suu Kyi is only politically powerful, and deep reforms are yet to be conducted."
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.