The prime minister’s eldest son, Hun Manet, has announced he will not attend a Khmer New Year parade in California as planned to avoid potential clashes, following an angry backlash from Cambodians living in the US who oppose his father’s regime.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Manet said he would still visit the US and attend other Khmer New Year events, but would not attend the parade in Long Beach on April 10 to avoid potential violence, with protests planned to coincide with his visit.
“As a conscientious child of Cambodia, I don’t want to see turbid feelings and division between Khmer and Khmer and, particularly, I want to avoid any possible violence … during the parade that would damage the interests of the nation; [therefore] my team and I decided not to attend the parade,” Manet wrote.
“It is not time to show muscles against each other, which shows divisions among Khmers.”
Manet’s planned attendance as the guest of honour at the annual event stirred strong feelings for many in Long Beach, home of a large Cambodian population, many of whom are fervently anti-government and anti-Hun Sen.
Several local city Councillors had vowed to boycott the parade after roughly 200 protesters descended on a Long Beach City Hall meeting last week to express their outrage.
The Cambodian-American Alliance (CAA), a group of Khmer-Americans, has led the charge against the visit, something Manet noted, naming the group’s president Touch Vibol as one of the individuals who campaigned against his invitation by the Cambodian Coordinating Council, another group of Khmer-Americans.
The CAA, unreachable yesterday, have vowed to stage protests in Massachusetts and Washington state, where Manet will also visit.
Manet is head of the Cambodian People’s Party’s Overseas Youth Working Group and travels frequently in a bid to win over the traditionally pro-opposition diaspora.
Yesterday, political analyst Chea Vannath said that given protests against Hun Sen’s attendance at the February US-ASEAN summit in California, there would be little surprise among the CPP about the backlash to Manet’s plans.
“The Cambodian-American community is a very hot potato . . . He’s maybe trying to test the water . . . trying to make a new start with Cambodians overseas as an ambassador of goodwill,” Vannath said.
Political observer Ok Serei Sopheak, meanwhile, said Manet’s avoidance of the parade showed “political maturity”.
“Although any eventual clash would not come from him, nevertheless, if he participates, all the critics would come down against him . . . It would be like putting gasoline on the fire,” Sopheak said. “If there are clashes, nobody wins but the whole of Cambodia loses.”