Cambodia strongman Hun Sen swears to die if vote numbers inflated
By Agence France-Presse
Cambodia’s strongman Premier Hun Sen Monday rejected claims the results from last month’s widely criticised election had been falsified, saying he would stake his life on their accuracy.
Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party claimed it won all 125 parliamentary seats in the deeply flawed July 29 poll, cementing the country as a one-party state and extending his 33-year grip on power.
Opposition figures had called for a boycott of the vote after the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved last year in a crackdown that saw one of its leaders charged with treason.
Turnout was a whopping 82 percent, leading Hun Sen to dismiss the campaign to shun ballot boxes as a failure. But independent observers did not take part and rights groups pointed to voter intimidation.
In a speech to athletes in Phnom Penh, the bombastic Hun Sen, 66, denied “vote cheating (and) inflating figures” of turnout. He dared opposition leaders to join him and swear on their lives over the claims.
“I swear to die from all forms…to die in a car accident, a plane crash, an electrocution, a lightning strike, anything that leads to death,” he said. “Do you dare to swear or not?”
“Those who have alleged the figure (of turnout) was inflated, please swear. Swear to die all together,” he added.
Some 6.9 million votes were cast in the national election. But nearly 600,000 ballots were spoilt in a sign of resistance to a vote which opposition members called a “sham” and “false.”
The United States threatened to broaden visa restrictions on senior Cambodian officials, while Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled co-founder of the disbanded opposition described it as a “terrible setback”.
The European Union also condemned the election, while China congratulated the people of Cambodia.
In response to Hun Sen’s challenge Rainsy said on his Facebook page that he would take the oath if there was an official recount.
He urged the National Election Committee not to destroy ballots collected from polling stations and claimed turnout was less than 50 percent.
The NEC is a theoretically impartial body but is widely believed to have links to the ruling party.
The CNRP took 44 percent of the vote in the previous election in 2013, mounting the most credible challenge to Hun Sen in decades. It performed equally well in 2017 local polls.