Prime Minister Hun Sen has changed his birth date in the electoral register from April 4, 1951 to August 5, 1952, while also announcing that he is starting a movement to eliminate “extremist ideologies”.

The premier updated his voter registration documents in Kandal province’s Takhmao town and commune on October 20.

“Today I came to register and change the record to reflect my real birth date, and I thank the court for issuing an order authorising this change.

“I have completely altered all civil registry and other relevant documents already, except for the electoral register which I had to complete personally. I am the prime minister but regardless of our status, the law is the law and we are required to take it seriously and obey it,” he said.

He added that the change in his birth date was not staged just to show citizens or foreigners the trappings of democracy in Cambodia because it was not just a place for the prime minister to register, but for the general public to register to vote. He reminded the public to take the opportunity to register to vote, especially young people of voting age.

He said he was appealing to the people to register to vote so that they could exercise their right to participate in democracy and elect their leader.

Hun Sen added that those who have not yet registered should do so now, including those who have relocated to another commune or need to make any adjustments, because the National Election Committee (NEC) is doing this work within a 50-day period, which is sufficient to its purpose.

“I appeal to our citizens to register to vote, and if they’ve relocated, to register where they are eligible to vote,” he said.

When it comes to election registration, the premier said Cambodia takes the democratic process seriously and with the regularity achieved by following the rules defined in the Constitution, which does not allow the prime minster to ask that the King to dissolve parliament, as is the most recent case in Malaysia two weeks ago when the prime minister dissolved parliament and called for a by-election.

“The reason I put an emphasis on the Constitution is that relevant chapters clearly stipulate that the parliament has a five-year mandate. Parliament cannot be dissolved before the end of its mandate, except when the parliament dissolves the government twice in 12 months,” he said.

“It’s clear that the Cambodian prime minister has no right, like that of prime ministers in other countries, to dissolve parliament ahead of the mandate when the prime minister sees that its party has the upper hand. Cambodia does not do so.”

Separately, Hun Sen said he is galvanising a movement to eliminate the extremist ideologies of individuals whom he dubbed “three generations of traitors”. He said that in order to guarantee peace, Cambodia needs to eliminate extremist politics.

“I will lead this movement as I used to lead one to disband an organised political body in the Khmer Rouge military. I did that successfully. Now, I will continue to do so by appealing to citizens who are misled about this traitor, so that they will distance themselves from the traitor,” he said.

Hun Sen’s message seems to have been a response to Sam Rainsy, former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who took to social media on October 16 calling on the Cambodian people and members of the armed forces to make changes in Cambodia in 2023. He also announced a plan to return to Cambodia in 2023.

“When I arrive in Cambodia I will make my appeal. The Cambodian people are waiting for an opportunity to arrive. Now, the opportunity will arrive when their leader also arrives. I appeal to all members of the armed forces not to follow the orders of Hun Sen. I ask the armed forces to remain neutral and not fire their guns and kill Cambodian people. Don’t kill your fellow Cambodians,” the post read.

The prime minister expressed his displeasure with Rainsy’s statements in strong terms.

“No way. I’ve already forgiven this traitor twice, but not only does the traitor not change his behaviour, but they continue to try to destroy Cambodia. So, not only will I not sign an amnesty for the traitor, but I am galvanising the movement to eliminate the extremist ideology of three generations of the traitor,” said Hun Sen.

However, some analysts note that the indirect back and forth comes after the court in France delivered a defamation verdict last week that ruled in favour of Hun Sen but granted clemency to Rainsy because of Hun Sen’s personal status.

Rainsy’s appeal to members of the armed forces to stay neutral also comes after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Rainsy to life in prison on October 19. He also said that Hun Sen is afraid of suffering the same fate as Muammar Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein who were both deposed and killed after having been in power for many years.

In addition to the prime minister’s reaction, some ministries and institutions have issued letters condemning the remarks by Rainsy, which they regard as insulting and an attempt to incite members of the armed forces to rise up against the current government.