Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday took aim at some politicians and media outlets for using the terms “Phnom Penh regime” and “Hun Sen regime” instead of the official title “Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia”.
He accused them of attempting to make the government seem illegitimate and of being condescending to the 83 per cent of Cambodian citizens who voted.
He was speaking to more than 200 development partners and NGOs at the second meeting to discuss a partnership between the government and civil society groups, held at the Ministry of Interior.
“Today we have the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which is a royal government resulting from an election."
“Our regime is a constitutional monarchy, so the current government is named the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, but some people do not use the words “Royal Government”.
“They use the words “Phnom Penh regime” and “Hun Sen regime”. Through my small understanding, I think such a use of these words seems to move towards determining that the royal government is an illegal, illegitimate government.”
Sar Kheng also said that people who use the term “Phnom Penh regime” must think about the will of more than 83 per cent of Cambodian citizens who turned out to vote.
If the people did not value [the government], he said, they would not have turned out to cast their votes.
He said the election in July last year saw no violence and went smoothly and, although some European countries and the US claim there are issues in Cambodia, they congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen on leading the government’s sixth mandate and . . . now Cambodia has been working together with those countries.
“The use of this term is strong – ‘Phnom Penh Regime’. They are democrats, free people, but when they use this phrase, it means they seem not to respect the will of the Cambodian people, so it is against the agreement [between the government and the people].
“[When] I speak like this, I do not want to ask them to stop. This is my freedom but I just speak from my little understanding,” Sar Kheng said.
History lecturer Sambo Manara said the use of such words was only a comment on the development and evolution of the political leadership of any country they don’t like, and the word has been used in the past, as with “Pol Pot regime” and “Washington regime”, “Tokyo regime” or “Beijing regime”.
“People who mention the word regime are only trying to refer to an interim period of any government in each era, so it is no problem and history also has this word."
“. . . To me, I think the word is important but [when people use this word] it is not looking down, it just shows their dislike . . . It is not wrong, but the meaning depends on the user.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Thursday that in his understanding, those who have been using this word include some NGOs and analysts, Sam Rainsy and opposition groups, and Radio Free Asia.
He said they are subverting the word to oppose the will of the public and it is always used to organise a colour revolution by not recognising the will of the public.”
Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch also criticised journalists and politicians who used the word. He said they are unprofessional journalists and politicians who are ill-intentioned – with political reasons for seeking popularity – and the use of this word goes against Cambodia’s laws.
“Those who are politically biased or those who use such language to attract people who dislike or oppose, to gain support – it is politically motivated."