Prime Minister Hun Sen crashed a Zoom strategy session of Cambodia’s banned opposition party “to send a clear message to the rebels” that they are being watched – not to seek political reconciliation, state media quoted him as saying in a report on Thursday.
The long-serving strongman suddenly popped up on a Zoom call that a U.S.-based former senior official of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was hosting last week with party members and activists in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and in Thailand. Hun Sen had the party banned in 2017, driving many members into exile.
In a 12-minute video of the Sept. 9 call that went viral on social media, Hun Sen slammed the CNRP and its exiled leaders, and then told Zoom meeting host Long Ry, who is living in exile in Massachusetts, that “I have been listening and have entered to listen many times already.”
Long Ry, a former member of parliament, told RFA this week that he was aware that someone in his circle had shared a link to the Zoom call with outsiders, but did not expect to see Hun Sen on the call.
While Long Ry complained about the invasion of privacy, comparing it to peeping on “naked people taking a shower,” he also extended an invitation to return to discuss national to restart talks to end a four-year political crisis.
Hun Sen, who has ruled the country since 1985 and destroyed several rivals in the past, was having none of the reconciliation talk, according to remarks carried on the state-run outlet Derm Ampil.
“Don't mistake my entering the Zoom meeting with you the other day as a signal for negotiations,” he said. “I wanted to send a clear message to the rebels that there are people of Hun Sen everywhere.”
The CNRP must “stop imagining that the party dissolved by the court will be revived, and Hun Sen will pardon, and Hun Sen will open negotiations for a political solution, because it fears the international community,” the prime minister said in remarks published a day after A spokesman for his ruling Cambodian People's Party dismissed the audio and video clips as an elaborate fabrication.
“Hopefully, this interpretation will make the ignorant analysts and those waiting for forgiveness from Hun Sen clearly understand,” he added.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, two months after arresting its president, Kem Sokha over an alleged plot to overthrow the government. Scores of supporters of the group have since been incarcerated, awaiting a tortuous legal process made slower by coronavirus restrictions.
The move came amid a wider crackdown by Hun Sen on the country’s political opposition, independent media, and NGOs that drew U.S. sanctions and the suspension of trade privileges with the European Union.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Paul Eckert.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.