Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen called on Wednesday for the Cambodian people to “stand up” against what he called meddling in the country’s internal affairs by the United States and other nations, urging citizens to unite in defense of Cambodia’s sovereignty.
Addressing over 20,000 garment workers from 11 factories in the Por Senchey district of the capital, Phnom Penh, Hun Sen rejected charges by the U.S. and the European Union that he and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have violated human rights.
“How many different standards exist in this world?” Hun Sen asked.
“Powerful countries always invade countries that are weak, and the smaller countries can defend themselves only by relying on the law to maintain peace, stability, and security,” he said. “Do we have any rights, or is it only the powerful countries that have the right to do whatever they want?”
“Unlike them, I have no weapons of mass destruction. So I urge our people to stand up to protect peace and for the sake of future development.”
Hun Sen’s public call to defend Cambodia’s sovereignty comes amid intensified criticism of CPP efforts to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in advance of national elections scheduled for next year.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Cambodia-based political analyst Lao Monghay said, “It isn’t surprising that Hun Sen is using the word ‘sovereignty’ to deflect international criticism.”
“Even during Cambodia’s genocide from 1975 to 1979, a senior member of the Khmer Rouge regime sent an official letter to the United Nations, telling them not to interfere in Cambodian affairs at a time when the government was killing many people and abusing their rights,” he said.
Right to monitor
Both the United States and countries in the European Union were signatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements that ended Cambodia’s war with Vietnam and established a democratic framework for the country’s future, Lao Monghay said.
“So they have the right to monitor the progress of respect for human rights and the exercise of democratic principles in Cambodia.”
Speaking in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Hun Sen said that government moves to dissolve the CNRP, which made important gains in local elections in June, won’t eliminate all opposition to his 32-year rule.
“I want to make it clear that if one party is dissolved, another five will replace it. Two to six such parties will already come into existence soon,” he said.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the opposition party this week to prepare a legal response to complaints by minor Hun Sen-aligned parties calling for the CNRP to be dissolved.
Hun Sen has specifically targeted the CNRP for destruction because it poses the most effective threat to his continued hold on power, Lao Monghay told RFA.
“But he can do whatever he wants, because he has the power. The court is just his puppet.”
Reported and translated by Sarada Taing for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.