Opposition leader Sam Rainsy branded ruling party officials including Prime Minister Hun Sen “a new generation of the Khmer Rouge” during a ceremony yesterday at the killing fields of Choeung Ek.
Organised on the anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to Khmer Rouge forces in 1975, the ceremony drew roughly 200 observers and Sam Rainsy Party supporters. Sam Rainsy himself remains abroad to avoid
a slew of criminal complaints against him, though he spoke to those in attendance yesterday via videoconference from France, offering provacative criticism of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“The new generation of Khmer Rouge, puppets of Vietnam, have killed people little by little, backed by Vietnam,” Sam Rainsy said. “Both Pol Pot and Hun Sen have always celebrated April 17 because they regard it as their victory day.”
The comments recall an address Sam Rainsy made at Choeung Ek in 2008 alleging that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong headed the Boeung Trabek prison under the Khmer Rouge. The foreign minister sued Sam Rainsy for defamation in relation the comments, with hearings in the case taking place at Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month despite the absence of Sam Rainsy and his lawyer.
Sam Rainsy already faces a total of 12 years in prison following a pair of convictions last year in relation to a protest he staged along the Kingdom’s eastern border in 2009 against alleged Vietnamese encroachment. He fled the country shortly following this protest to avoid the case pending against him.
Acting SRP president Kong Korm echoed Sam Rainsy’s comments at the ceremony yesterday, saying Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal had prosecuted just “one group” of Khmer Rouge leaders, but that “the Khmer Rouge group supported by Vietnam has been acquitted”.
“I have seen that land evictions these days are not different from in the Khmer Rouge regime,” Kong Korm said.
Senior ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed the SRP comments yesterday and warned that Sam Rainsy could face additional legal action for his criticisms of Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, all of whom hold the “Samdech” honourific.
“If the three Samdechs just wink at their lawyers, the lawyers can file complaints and Sam Rainsy can receive another jail sentence,” Cheam Yeap said.
“I know that at this point, Sam Rainsy has no hope of returning to his homeland, so that’s why he raises these issues again and again.”