PM blasts critics who claim Kingdom poorer than in 1979

(Phnom Penh) : Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted the growing economy on Friday and called on critics of his leadership to swear on their lives that present-day Cambodia is poorer than in 1979.

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tbong Khmum Cambodia-China Friendship Hospital, Hun Sen also announced that he intends to lead the country for at least another 10 years. He said people should continue to vote for his party if they wanted to maintain peace and development.

On his 34-year rule, Hun Sen praised his government’s infrastructure program, such as the construction of bridges, roads, hospitals and schools, and highlighted the difference between Cambodia now and after the collapse of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

He said 6.2 million tourists visited Cambodia last year, while Chinese investment had seen 500,000 workers find work in the garment industry.

He then highlighted the irony of critics using modern technology to criticize his leadership and claim Cambodia is becoming poorer.

The prime minister said those claiming on his Facebook page that Cambodia is becoming poorer should swear on their lives or those of loved ones that this is indeed the case.

“Do you dare to swear that [Cambodia] is poorer now than in 1979? Swear on death by a lightning strike? On the death of a child or grandchild, or a whole family?

“Those saying my rule is making [Cambodia] poorer and poorer, swear [to back up] the venomous group saying Cambodia is becoming poorer and poorer, and worse than in 1979. If you don’t, it means you recognize the truth.

“They are using smartphones to write comments that my rule is making the country poorer and poorer! Do the ones using smartphones to say this dare to swear?” he asked.

Political analyst Meas Nee said although Cambodia’s economy is growing, it is still the poorest nation in the region. Criticisms of Cambodian poverty did not look to the past but to neighboring countries, he said.

He said he recognized that the people’s standard of living is improving, but claimed the gap between rich and poor is getting worse. The government still fails to successfully crack down on injustice in society, while the rich and powerful can still mistreat the poor.

Nee did not comment on the prime minister calling for oaths, but he said a country’s leader should accept criticism and not consider all critics as having bad intentions.

Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said it was not unusual for Cambodians to make such oaths, but as prime minister, Hun Sen should not do so. He should instead have highlighted the Kingdom’s economic growth.

He said he didn’t agree that Cambodia was the poorest nation in the region as the Kingdom had shown strong economic growth for many years.