PHNOM PENH - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned on Monday an opposition win in the 2018 election would create civil war, likening the party's policy agenda to that of the Khmer Rouge when it eradicated businesses and executed intellectuals.
In a speech at a university graduation ceremony, Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who defected to eventual conquerer North Vietnam, said opposition leader Sam Rainsy's promises to target connected businessmen engaging in unlawful practices would create chaos.
"Business people were threatened that there would be a tribunal to prosecute them," Hun Sen said of Rainsy's election pledge.
"Civil war will break out, it must break out." Hun Sen said a proposed crackdown on crooked tycoons would be like that of Pol Pot, the architect of the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 "year zero" revolution, when he persecuted officials from the previous government.
Surviving leaders of the Khmer Rogue have been indicted by a United Nations-led tribunal handling cases related to the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians.
Hun Sen has several times warned that without him in charge, the country would return to the conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s.
The self-styled "strongman" is currently facing the biggest challenge to his three-decade rule from Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue Party.
CNRP lawmaker Yim Sovann dismissed Hun Sen's threats and said the public was tired of hearing about war.
"Whoever wins an election that is free and fair, it will be constitutional to assume power," he said. "Nobody will want to cause any war."