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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM says attackers defended their honor

PM says attackers defended their honor

S ECOND Prime Minister Hun Sen said the Kandal villagers who ransacked a Phnom Penh

newspaper office last week did nothing wrong, and offered them transport for future

demonstrations.

"If you are short of vehicles to go to Phnom Penh, I'll help," Hun Sen

told hundreds of applauding villagers in Kraingyov commune on Oct 30.

Seven days earlier, about 150 people from Kraingyov - site of a rural development

project established by Hun Sen - went to Phnom Penh and attacked the Sereypheap Thmei

(New Liberty News) office with poles and axes.

They smashed their way into the office, destroyed computers, tables and chairs, beat

up a staff member and burnt copies of the newspaper in the street outside.

"I just would like to exercise my right...to express the opinion that Kraingyov

people were not wrong in their action," Hun Sen said during his later visit

to the commune.

In an hour-long speech, Hun Sen said he would do nothing to stop protests by Kraingyov

people, that anyone who criticized the villagers was Khmer Rouge, and that he himself

had the power to arrange a demonstration of 100,000 people in Phnom Penh.

He said he was not inciting violence, but would not stand in the way of Kraingyov

people standing up for their rights.

The Hun Sen Development Center, a big irrigation and rural development project, was

started at Kraingyov early this year as a personal project of Hun Sen's.

The attack on New Liberty News - the second time Kraingyov people have protested

against the newspaper - followed an article it published alleging poor technical

standards in the building of dykes around the commune.

"Those who are opposed to Kraingyov people...are Khmer Rouge. Except the Khmer

Rouge, there is no-one" Hun Sen said in his speech.

"I am not encouraging the people to attack any other people, but if they go,

go ahead and I won't stop them. The people of Kraingyov exercised their right, people

in other places can have the same right to enjoy to complain."

He implicitly blamed the newspaper for starting "the fire" by publishing

its article about Kraingyov and insultings its people.

"I have not insulted anyone, [only] helped the people. I leave it to you, I

withdraw myself from this dispute.

"If you are short of vehicles to go to Phnom Penh, I'll help. If they [the newspaper]

can exercise their rights, why can't Kraingyov people? Let's be clear on this - equal

rights."

In a reference to the newspaper's threats to sue for compensation, he said: "[If]

they sue Kraingyov people for $20,000, Kraingyov people must counter-sue for $1 million...netting

$980,000 to further invest in the [commune's development].

"If the court summons [anyone], all should go to fill up the courtroom because

not only one but all Kraingyov people who complain."

Making it plain he opposed any attempt by the police to prosecute people for the

newspaper attack, he said: "I have told a high-ranking official of the Royal

government that 'You don't confront Kraingyov people'. And I clearly told him that

Hun Sen sticks with Kraingyov people..."

Hun Sen disputed any suggestion he was involved with the attack on the newspaper,

which occured while he was in the United States.

But, he said, "I should add to that, if you want to to go [to Phnom Penh], there

are vehicles to carry you."

To loud applause, he said: "I am not able to stop you...don't walk, thirty trucks

should take everyone.

"... If Kraingyov people stage a demonstration and you cry for Hun Sen to order

soldiers and police to send tanks to disrupt it, no."

In apparent reference to the newspaper's call for the attackers to be arrested, he

said: "When there's no trouble you curse Hun Sen. When you're in trouble, you

call on Hun Sen to help.

"No, I only help the good. Not only I don't help, but I fight, the bad and the

Khmer Rouge."

He said the honor Kraingyov villagers had been damaged, and they had a right to decide

what to do about that.

"Don't accuse Hun Sen of incitement. Even if he does [incite], be clear, Hun

Sen will not organize any demonstration without 100,000 people. Hun Sen has the ability

to bring a demonstration of 100,000 people to Phnom Penh."

Elsewhere in his speech, Hun Sen referred to having discussed the matter with his

son - who is attending the West Point military academy - while in the US.

He said he had told his son: "You will continue when I am gone. Don't leave

the Kraingyov people, my son."

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