As many as 1,000 protesters are expected to greet Prime Minister Hun Sen in California next month when he attends the US-ASEAN summit, according to one of the demonstration’s organisers.
The premier on Monday warned that any rallies that met him during his trip – the first time he’s been invited by a US president to visit the country – would spark ruling-party demonstrations against opposition leaders in Cambodia, a threat which raised the spectre of pro-government protests in October that ended with two Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers being savagely beaten outside parliament.
The CNRP, and its US fundraising networks, were quick to distance themselves from any planned protests after the warning, a position spokesman Yim Sovann maintained yesterday.
But members of the Cambodia-America Alliance say they’re undeterred, and will hold a “rally against tyrant Hun Sen” at Sunnylands resort in Rancho Mirage.
“On February 15th, 2016, in this free country, we will have the opportunity of a lifetime to confront a dictator who has oppressed the Khmer people in our Kingdom for far too long,” the group’s president Vibol Touch wrote in a message online.
Speaking by phone yesterday, organiser Vandeth Nal said the group expected 800 to 1,000 people from nearby states to attend the rally, which, he added, had been given permission to go ahead by authorities.
He said the group was not connected to the CNRP but wanted to see the Cambodian government “respect human rights”.
“We don’t want to embarrass him, but the USA is a democratic country and we just want to exercise our rights,” Nal said, adding that Hun Sen’s people had the right to hold counter rallies, though the international community was watching.
In October, Hun Sen, after facing demonstrators while abroad, alluded to a mass protest against CNRP deputy Kem Soka.
The next day, 2,000 people arrived at the National Assembly. Some of the group then viciously attacked two CNRP lawmakers as they tried to leave.
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sous Yarra said any protests against Hun Sen in California would not look good for Cambodia.
“They should understand that the prime minister is visiting in the name of the ASEAN family, the honour is given to him to represent the country, and he’s the legitimate prime minister, so any action or demonstration or anything that would stand against him would not bring honour to our nation,” Yara said.