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Candlelight leaders rebuff war claims in event of election win

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Candlelight Party (CLP) vice-president Son Chhay speaking in a press conference in July. Hong Menea

Candlelight leaders rebuff war claims in event of election win

Candlelight Party (CLP) vice-president Son Chhay has affirmed that the party’s platform is to live freely and ensure peace and neutrality with neighbouring countries, while acting CLP president Thach Setha recently assured his supporters in Kampong Speu province that if the party won the national election, no war with Vietnam would break out.

The remarks apparently came in response to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has often suggested that war could break out if the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lost the election.

Chhay noted that the government’s past relationship with Vietnam had created doubts among some of the public. He added that if his party had the opportunity to lead the country, it would implement immigration policies, especially with Vietnamese immigrants, in accordance with existing laws.

“We would look at how neighbouring countries enforce their immigration laws and would abide by the laws in force. We would not wrongfully take action against immigrants, regardless of where they are from. I would like to remind my compatriots that all countries have immigrants, both legal and illegal. We educate people not to discriminate against them,” he said.

“The development of a nation must ensure peace both in the country and with neighbouring countries. The neighbouring countries should also respect the sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity of Cambodia,” he added.

“There is no way that there would be a war with Vietnam if the opposition were to win the national election. Nowadays, no one is so foolish as to make war. The government may think that the people are foolish and can be scared by such claims,” said Setha.

“Even now, they will not allow the opposition party to claim that land was lost to Vietnam. We want people – especially the young – to know what land was lost, when it was lost and who caused the losses. Given the chance, we would employ international legal mechanisms to demand its return,” he added.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said this was standard line from the opposition leader, reiterating that a civil war was likely should CLP lead the country.

“Their roots originate from the former CNRP. Past policies of the CNRP make it clear that they will cancel bank debt, cancel farming fertiliser debt and confiscate wealth from the rich to distribute to the poor,” he explained, in reference to the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“The redistribution of wealth is pure Pol Pot politics, so the politics of the Candlelight Party would clearly result in another civil war if they were to come to power,” he said.

Eysan stressed that the CPP-led government bases its immigration and border policies on existing laws.

“We have peacefully installed border markers with our neighbours, based on the documents left by the French colonial authorities. We have no ambition to occupy more border land, but have instead built a border of peace, friendship, solidarity and cooperation that enable s people to build safe, successful lives,” he said.

Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of war if the CPP did not rule the country. He was reacting to critics of border issues and criticism related to the recent opening of Vietnamese language classes at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).The premier said extreme anti-Vietnamese sentiment could lead to war in Cambodia.

CLP is the second-largest party, with candidates fielded across the country in the June 5 commune council elections. Observers describe it as inevitable that the two parties will contest the upcoming 2023 national election.


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