Prime Minister Hun Sen said on October 21 that he would consider pardoning politicians at home and abroad who have distanced themselves from former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

“While we’re engaged in the democratic process leading up to next year's elections, [Rainsy] calls for the overthrow of the government by the use of force. So, if we do not eliminate that one from consideration, then that would be strange. But I only eliminate that one person. I don’t eliminate anyone else from consideration. So, if other people distance themselves from him, I can review their situation and pardon them – as long as they distance themselves from him,” Hun Sen said at a meeting with people who relocated to the Run Ta Ek area.

His remarks came in response to Rainsy, who called on the armed forces to not fire their guns at the people when they rose up against the current government, which he claimed would happen when he returned to Cambodia in the near future.

The call angered the prime minister, with Hun Sen saying that he would make a resolute determination to eliminate three generations of traitors with extremist ideology.

Hun Sen added that as long as Rainsy refused to disavow extremist politics and plots to overthrow the government, he was effectively banned.

For eliminating extremist ideology, he said he would employ the DIFID strategy – divide, isolate, finish, integrate and develop – that he used when dealing with the Khmer Rouge to bring about comprehensive peace. But now, he said, he will only have to use I and F – isolate and finish.

He also warned political parties at home with connections to Rainsy, saying that he would sue the courts for their dissolution if they continued.

Some analysts said that the message referred to the Candlelight Party because the party was originally the Sam Rainsy Party before changing its name and leadership.

Candlelight Party vice-president Thach Setha rejected the remarks, saying that his party had carried out all of its activities in line with the political and legal frameworks and the Constitution.

He added that he wanted to see Hun Sen and Rainsy stop attacking each other and instead create a better political environment for the national elections next year.