Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday appeared to take a veiled swipe at the United States, insinuating that they were responsible for the decades of bloody civil war that engulfed Cambodia.
Speaking ahead of today’s 24th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords, which paved the way for the 1993 democratic elections after years of violent turmoil, the premier ruminated over why the agreement was needed in the first place.
Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge regimental commander who returned as part of the force of ex-Cambodian cadre, backed by the Vietnamese military, which toppled the Pol Pot regime in 1979, traced events back to the ousting of Norodom Sihanouk in 1970 by then-prime minister Lon Nol.
It was those “responsible” for this – a veiled reference, analysts say, to the United States – who should bear responsibility for the bloodshed and for robbing Cambodia of the progress it would have otherwise enjoyed, he said.
“They must have at least a moral responsibility,” Hun Sen, speaking at the inauguration of the Chroy Changvar II Bridge, said of “the one who made that war”.
“If there was no 1970 coup, we would not have had the Pol Pot regime, and if there was no Pol Pot regime then we would not have fought the Pol Pot regime and there would be no civil war and no requirement for the Paris Agreements.”
As Cambodia was pulled into the Vietnam war in the late 1960s, then-head of state Prince Sihanouk tried to maintain the country’s neutrality amid the geopolitical tussle between the United States and the Soviet Union and China.
In 1970, while on a tour of Russia and China, he was ousted by pro-US prime minster Lon Nol, the head of the army. Lon Nol, backed by American military aid, launched attacks against the Vietnamese guerillas using Cambodia as a base, and against the Khmer Rouge, who five years later captured Phnom Penh.
There is no proof America encouraged the coup, though in his book, The Tragedy of Cambodian History, historian David Chandler said that CIA agents based in Phnom Penh were “renewing ties” to “sympathetic Cambodians” as Sihanouk drifted towards the communist bloc in the late 1960s.
Yesterday, US Embassy Spokesman Jay Raman declined to comment on the premier’s speech.
Independent political analyst Ou Virak, founder of the political think tank Future Forum, said the comment was a reference to the United States.
Virak added that he supported the premier’s demand for countries with a hand in the events of the 1970s to bear responsibility.