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Introspection on rights: PM

hun sen
Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures as he delivers a speech at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday suggested that international critics who have accused Cambodia of political abuses might want to refocus their attention on Thailand.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the National Council on Green Growth at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace, the prime minister asserted that the international community did not dare accuse Thailand of legal and human rights violations as they did Cambodia, because Thailand was wealthier and more powerful.

“The military coup [in Thailand] ousted Thaksin [Shinawatra] and blocked him from returning to the country, destroyed political parties, cut political rights - and no one criticises them,” said the premier.

In contrast, Hun Sen said, the international community had heaped unfair criticism on poorer, less-powerful Cambodia for its treatment of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, even though the charges against self-exiled Rainsy, the prime minister reiterated, were motivated by Rainsy’s own illegal actions, rather than politics.

“If anyone comes to visit me,” Hun Sen said, “I will ask them: ‘In your country, if someone uproots [border markers] like that, what kind of crime is that?’”

Turning to the case of Boeung Kak community activist Yorm Bopha, who was accused of ordering two motorcycle taxi drivers to be beaten and sentenced to three years in prison in December, the prime minister maintained that Bopha, too, was convicted because she had violated the law and not for political reasons.

“Why don’t they dare criticise Thailand? Because it has a strong economy, and some countries need Thailand a lot even though Thailand has had a coup, because they have military bases are there,” Hun Sen said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the international community had in fact criticised Thailand for rights abuses, but he added that at least Thailand had independent courts.

“Our court is not independent. This is a very important basis for the complaints of the international community,” he said, noting that it was the Cambodian courts’ lack of independence that allowed government influence of the case against Rainsy.

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