“I was elected by the Constitution, so I would only step down by Constitution. Other countries authorize the prime minister to dissolve parliament. But, in Cambodia, under Article 78 of the Constitution, it says that the legislative term of the Assembly shall be five years, and the Assembly shall not be dissolved before the end of its term except when the Royal Government is twice deposed within a period of 12 months.”
“But one more thing: Calling for me to step down—what have I done wrong?”
CPP prime minister Hun Sen, 20 December, 2013
Of course, Hun Sen cannot go for now, even if he wants to. The Constitution he refers to does not make the judgment call. Clause 78 of the Constitution may allow him to stay, but it cannot stop him or any prime minister from going. Political expediency has seen the Constitution in the past twenty years being disregarded and butchered so often that there is question whether it is still worth the paper it is written on. Another disregard of it now will make no difference.
However, his rhetorical question, “what have I done wrong?” after refusing to resign seems to indicate Hun Sen thinks he has done an excellent job, or at least good enough to stay.
But the final say does not rest with him. His question will be answered by his patron Vietnam that put him in power at the first place. He has just been invited, or summoned, to Hanoi for a two-day visit from 26 to 28 December 2013. It may be just a holiday escape from the pressure of the ever growing local demonstrations, but it looks terribly similar to the one he took just before the 1997 bloody clash with Funcinpec troops. It would be most interesting, however, if he refused the Hanoi invite. Would Hanoi accept a rejection and not retaliate?
Anyway, if he is assessed to still have potential and skill to quell the oppositions and to continue with the good work, he will return from Vietnam with a vengeance. Otherwise, he will be replaced, just like the then prime minister Pen Sovann in the early 80s after his persistent quest to protect the Cambodian territory was rudely interrupted by his long standing patron who was his power base all along.
There is usually no mercy in any patron and servant relationship – only satisfactory returns to the patron, which determine how long the relationship will last.
Ung Bun Ang