Prime Minister Hun Sen said “some superpowers” and their allies had continued to interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs through the implementation of double standards regarding democracy and respect for human rights.
In a letter marking the International Day of Peace on September 21, Hun Sen said the Covid-19 pandemic has had serious negative impacts across many sectors and affected the socio-economic situation globally.
He noted that the world was also experiencing a global economic crisis due to the decrease in national and international economic growth because of the pandemic’s disruption to trade and economic activities.
The prime minister said that in addition to the Covid-19 crisis affecting peace and stability internationally, complex and unpredictable developments related to the global security situation were being caused by competition between superpowers seeking to protect their interests and maintain their political, economic and military influence. This competition, he said, is a threat to regional and global peace and stability.
“Some superpowers and their allies continued to use all kinds of tricks to threaten and interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs by applying double standards in the name of democracy and respect for human rights,” he said.
Hun Sen stated that the Cambodian government and people had not forgotten the devastation and pain caused by the war that “some superpowers” and their allies had drawn Cambodia into years ago.
“We won’t ask those countries to pay the moral debts they owe to the Cambodian people, but we will use our sovereign right as the owners of this motherland to protect the survival of our people and safeguard our peace, stability and national development,” he said.
The prime minister added that Cambodia has “consistently” adhered to a policy of neutrality, non-alignment and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries along with mutual respect and beneficial relationships.
He recalled that the “bitter” experiences and lessons that Cambodia had learned during the more than two decades of civil war and the ruinous Khmer Rouge genocidal regime gave all Cambodians a clear understanding of the value of peace and stability.
“Peace is the foundation for the nation’s development. It has been nearly 23 years since December 29, 1998, when decades of war in Cambodia were brought to an end by my win-win policy. It was I who truly brought total peace and complete unity to the whole nation for the first time in the history of Cambodia,” he recalled.
Now, he said, the Cambodian government and people have an opportunity to work hard to restore and rebuild the country as well as to step firmly along the path toward development and progress in all sectors of society.
Though he did not name any country, the prime minister was apparently referring to the US and its close allies with similar foreign policy objectives such as certain EU member states in his remarks about interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs.
Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID) president Pa Chanroeun told The Post on September 21 that when concerns about human rights and democracy in Cambodia are raised by the international community – especially by the US or EU – Cambodia has always viewed it as unwelcome interference.
He said respect for human rights and adherence to democratic principles are both enshrined in the Paris Peace Accords and the 1993 Cambodian Constitution. The Constitution and the accords also proclaimed that Cambodia would henceforth be a liberal multi-party democracy.
The principle of respect for human rights is also enshrined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties and conventions to which Cambodia is a signatory, he said.
“The international community is attentive to these matters in Cambodia – especially some of the nations who were signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which raised the issue of human rights violations and setbacks in the democratic process,” he said.
The 1991 Paris Peace Accords had 19 signatory nations, including the US, China, Canada, Australia, the former Soviet Union, France, India, UK, Japan and most of ASEAN member states. The accords began the process of reestablishing Cambodia as a fully-independent sovereign state.
“They are trying to fulfill their obligations as signatories to the Paris Peace Accords and as partners with Cambodia by insisting on adherence to the principles of respect for human rights and democracy,” Chanroeun said.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the west is known for using human rights and democracy as pretexts to apply pressure on other nations in order to serve their own self-interested political agenda.
“If we compare different countries’ situations related to human rights and democracy, the criticism and the application of these standards isn’t balanced or fair and these rules are often disregarded whenever it suits [the US and its allies] when doing so serves their economic and geopolitical goals,” he said.
Phea added that whenever there is some benefit to be gained by them, [the US] drops all of its talk about human rights and democracy and has often signed free trade agreements or built friendships with countries ruled by dictatorships without any consideration for human rights issues or democracy when it is not convenient.
“Whenever a country isn’t being useful to their purposes or represents an obstacle to their geopolitical goals, they use democracy as a stick and human rights as an instrument of punishment in order to pressure countries like Cambodia and others who are not totally on-board with their agenda by giving them a dark and negative image internationally,” he said.