Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Cambodians to be more receptive towards homosexuality in a speech delivered a day after the gay community celebrated Human Rights Day.
In response to same sex couples demanding equal rights during Cambodian celebrations of International Human Rights Day, Hun Sen called on the public to be more tolerant of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“They do not want to be this way, but they are [born] like that,” the premier said during a speech given at a land titling ceremony in Kep province.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, was heartened that the prime minister publicly acknowledged the problem of discrimination against the LGBT community.
“Any comment made by our leaders, particularly people who lead opinions of the public, is welcome. We are happy that he said it,” Virak told the Post.
He added that his rights group would continue to push for Hun Sen’s words to be put into action, noting that the government has to do more to end discrimination and open up opportunities to members of the LGBT community.
“His government and ruling party has enough seats and power to influence the outcome of policies,” he said.
Srun Srorn, a facilitator at Rainbow Community Kampuchea, said that while the comment might have been a political move, he also believed that Hun Sen personally supports the LGBT community now despite announcing he would disown his lesbian adopted daughter in 2007.
He also thought that the passing of the beloved King Father Norodom Sihanouk might have influenced Hun Sen.
The late king had endorsed same-sex marriages in 2004, although there is no law on same-sex marriages now in Cambodia.
Hun Sen caused controversy in 2007 when he told a graduation ceremony he was disappointed with his adopted daughter, who was a lesbian, while appealing to the crowds not to discriminate against the gays.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Ip at firstname.lastname@example.org
With assistance from Mom Kunthear