Cambodia PM challenges rival to take fatal ‘lightning strike’ oath over vote fraud claims

Hun Sen told exiled opposition figure Sam Rainsy to swear to be killed by lightning if he falsely claimed a recent election was rigged

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 10:07pm

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has challenged his top political rival: take an oath to have lightning strike you dead if you falsely claim that last month’s general election was unfair.

Hun Sen, speaking on Monday to Cambodian athletes heading later this month to the Asian Games in Indonesia, was responding to claims by Sam Rainsy that the July 29 polls were fraudulent and the 82 per cent turnout figure was inflated. He called Sam Rainsy a good liar who often created news to deceive the public.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won a landslide victory in an election the opposition and independent observers criticised as neither free nor fair. Sam Rainsy’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by court last year, a move widely seen as politically motivated and initiated by Hun Sen’s government.

Sam Rainsy, who is in self-imposed exile to avoid prison on what he views as a politically inspired defamation conviction, acknowledged the challenge on his Facebook page and said he would take the oath if the government first allowed a recount of the ballots with the participation of international observers and observers from his own disbanded party. He said the voter turnout was less than 50 per cent, rather than the 82 per cent claimed by the government and the National Election Committee.

Leaders of the disbanded CNRP had urged voters to boycott the polls.

Sam Rainsy, a CNRP founder, has been Hun Sen’s nemesis for many years. Their rivalry plays out publicly on social media, with the two competing for a greater number of followers on Facebook.

In addition to being forced to stay abroad, Sam Rainsy was kicked out from his parliamentary seat and pressured to resign from his party, which was dissolved after the Supreme Court ruled it was implicated in trying to overthrow the government with the backing of the US.

Although his former party was not able to contest the election, they were denounced repeatedly by Hun Sen during the campaign.

Hun Sen, who technically is only a caretaker prime minister until his party’s election victory is validated and his government sworn in, said he had asked legal experts to see if he can be sworn in earlier than the planned September 19 so he can attend the UN General Assembly session in New York, which starts on September 18.