Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday defended Cambodian generals who Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed had committed rights abuses, saying they were “cleansed”.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Cambodia-China Friendship Overpass in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen mockingly urged Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, to accuse all of his nearly 110,000 officials rather than just a dozen.
“I would like to say to Brad Adams that you accused only 12 generals in Cambodia, which is too small a number. Please accuse them all. That would be enough because not only 12 generals are loyal to Hun Sen . . . [the generals] said it’s not enough. They ask you to include all 110,000 military personnel,” he said.
Last Thursday, HRW released a more than 200-page report titled Cambodia’s Dirty Dozen: A long history of rights abuses by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s generals. The document detailed the backgrounds of the 12 generals, eight of whom work within the National Defence Ministry and four at the Interior Ministry.
Hun Sen also responded to an unnamed political analyst who called for a government probe on the generals – likely Meas Ny – calling the idea “stupid”. “One analyst said the government should conduct an investigation. That’s such a stupid analyst. If you are stupid, be stupid by yourself. Don’t encourage others to be stupid with you.”
Rejecting the idea of HRW conducting an investigation into the officials, the prime minister said: “[HRW] have no rights. I have told you that, so do not make too many mistakes.
“You keep accusing and I keep investigating? Nothing can get done . . . Military and police are tools to protect the government and the country. You must understand that. If you don’t understand, you need to learn more. You’re the stupid PhD.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told The Post via email on Monday that it is no surprise the prime minister won’t allow any investigation into the 12.
“Put simply, much of Hun Sen’s power is based on fear among the people that if they step out of line they can face violent retaliation from security units led by the dirty dozen,” he said.
“As for his taunt that we should accuse all 110,000 Cambodian soldiers, that’s pure silliness . . . It’s rather sad that Hun Sen immediately assumes a critical report about his cronies in the top levels of the military and the police is somehow an attack on the rank and file soldiers of Cambodia,” he said.
Analyst Meas Ny said he was not sure whether the premier’s remarks were referring to him. However, he said, in general, the government should take any report seriously instead of dismissing it outright.
“Because we do not believe [the denials], that’s why we asked for an investigation. Nonetheless, it is common for the government to defend generals after any accusation is made,” he said.