With just over a year left on a political ban for opposition officials, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would hand out “rehabilitation” pardons only if it “makes me pleased,” while saying he would stay in power until he “no longer wants to do it anymore.”
Speaking for four hours and 20 minutes at the launch of vaccinations for adolescents aged 12 to 17 at the Peace Palace on Sunday morning, Prime Minister Hun Sen gave his views on a range of topics, including his own political future.
“Well, now I no longer set a time limit for my tenure as prime minister, and will act as [prime minister] until Hun Sen no longer wants to do it anymore,” Hun Sen said.
His ruling CPP currently controls all 125 seats in the National Assembly after its only viable challenger, the CNRP, was outlawed in 2017. Some 118 senior CNRP officials were banned from politics for five years, making them ineligible for office during that span.
However, at least 24 of the officials have asked the government for “rehabilitation” to reinstate them, and many have formed or joined new parties. Some political observers saw the program as a way to weaken the dissolved party’s unity. But the two latest applicants for rehabilitation, CNRP lawyer Choung Choungy and ex-party official Nhim Kimnhol, were rejected by the government.
Hun Sen said on Sunday that the future rehabilitation of banned opposition politicians would be up to his discretion.
“Well, I have the right to consider or to not give it. Make me pleased, I’ll give it. Make me dissatisfied, I won’t give it, because I am the prime minister. I have the right,” Hun Sen said. “My feelings are like that. It’s not every request. I have to sign it for you. No. Talk clearly to each other because it has to be like that for them.”
The country has begun vaccinations for adolescents with the hope of vaccinating 80 percent of its 16-million population. So far, about 7.4 million people have received at least a first dose, with authorities saying that nearly 100 percent of Phnom Penh’s adult population has been vaccinated.
Front-line health workers would also be receiving a third dose of AstraZeneca, Hun Sen said on Sunday, though he previously mentioned that border officials would also be counted among the front line.
“I agreed yesterday to give the third dose to the Cambodian people with an AstraZeneca vaccine, for the people who have been vaccinated [twice with] Sinovac or Sinopharm, and for the people who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca to get the third dose of the Sinovac vaccine,” he said. “But the third dose will be focused on the front line, which has about 500,000 to 1 million people, and the [regular] people will follow.”
Hun Sen added that Johnson & Johnson vaccines would be distributed among returning migrant workers and indigenous communities. He also asked state hospitals not to charge people for reporting for a Covid-19 test.
Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer