Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for almost 30 years. And he’s expected to win another term when elections are held next July.
With a monopoly over state and private media, everyday images of building bridges, roads, and other government developments, are broadcast across the country.
Speaking to thousands of his supporters recently, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked voters to support him again in the July election.
And he’s reminding everyone of what’s at stake...
“All state-controlled aid projects will cease if me and my Cambodian People Party do not win the election. It means, no other party will continue the CPP’s projects to develop your communities. I believe that no political party will help you like the CPP does.”
In congress last month, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party declared its full support to the incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen for another term in office.
Hun Sen has been in power for 28 years and has vowed to stay until he’s 90.
And he’s doing whatever it takes to boost his popularity.
The country’s nine major TV channels are all owned by government officials or business people with close ties to the ruling party. State songs in the form of karaoke videos, praising the Prime Minister and his wife, are being shown on TV.
In a video shown around the clock on multiple TV stations, a man and a woman sing in harmony over images of a flapping fish.
This is to celebrate Hun Sen’s recent decision to end the system of privately-owned fishing lots.
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Hun Sen also defended his party’s decision to nominate his sons, and the children of other party officials, to run for parliament in the upcoming national elections. He says the party believes that they’re qualified.
“I would like to introduce my three sons to you. I’m not promoting them to take power, but I want them to know my history, that I was a rebel officer who liberated the nation during the civil war,” he says while introducing his sons Hun Manet, Hun Manith and Hun Many.
Many believe that Hun Sen is laying the foundations for a political dynasty. A former researcher from the Asian Human Rights Commission, Dr Lao Monghai, fears Cambodia will become an autocracy.
“If we become an autocratic country, we must respect our leader as a Supreme Being,” says Dr Lao.
“And through the media and the education system, people will treat him as if he’s God. And our media is monopolised by the ruling party, it’s a signal that we’re heading that way. His party can win the election for sure.”
The opposition has nominated its chief, Sam Rainsy, to become Prime Minister if the party wins the elections. But he lives in exile in France and faces 12 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia.
“In the name of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, I pledge before you, that we will defend our nation and bring victory for our party in the upcoming elections,” says Sam Rainsy through a video conference, promising to fight for the underprivileged.
[Also read: Child Labour Still Rampant in Cambodia]
But Prime Minister Hun Sen has the advantage of being in the country... where he will continue to tighten his grip on power...
“I’m your Prime Minister. You must not hate me or vote against me, it’s not fair. You have to know that it’s vitally important to me,” says the Prime Minister in one campaign.
“Whether you need another Prime Minister or you need Hun Sen to continue in his post, please vote for my party.”