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Analyst in CPP’s crosshairs

Sophal Ear speaks in Phnom Penh in 2014. The long-time government critic has recently come under attack from Prime Minister Hun Sen and pro-government media.
Sophal Ear speaks in Phnom Penh in 2014. The long-time government critic has recently come under attack from Prime Minister Hun Sen and pro-government media. Pha Lina

Analyst in CPP’s crosshairs

Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP-aligned news media have launched a public and somewhat off-the-wall attack on academic and commentator Sophal Ear, a longtime government critic, goading him to leave America due to his criticisms of US president-elect Donald Trump before last month’s election.

Ear described Trump as “autocratic” and a fellow traveller of world leaders like Hun Sen in the days before Trump’s victory, and yesterday, the prime minister used a speech at the opening of a $100 million Coca-Cola factory in Phnom Penh to hit back.

“He wanted to hit Hun Sen’s head, but he missed and he just hit Donald Trump’s head instead,” the prime minister said of Ear, who was a Cambodian refugee and has long taught world affairs and diplomacy at the university level in the US. The prime minister said that Ear should be ashamed and find a new home.

“I am not a professor of diplomacy like Ear Sophal, but I have conducted diplomatic affairs for 35 years – since I was 26 years old – so I have enough reason to claim that Donald Trump would win . . . If I were Ear Sophal, I would leave the US immediately.”

A Fresh News article yesterday, titled Will Sam Rainsy and Sophal Ear Agree to Keep Living With a Regime Led by an Ignorant and Dictatorial Person, also suggested that Ear leave the US – and that opposition leader Sam Rainsy stop seeking US support.

“People say that, in the name of the brave politician and in the name of the professor who presents himself as the know-all, they should not associate with, or live under, a regime that has that ignorant and dictatorial leader,” the Fresh News article said.

“It’d be better if Sam Rainsy and Sophal Ear announced they are cutting connections with the government of Trump, and then leave from America [but] . . . people are afraid that these two will only talk, and will not have the courage to do.”

It’s not the first attack on Ear and Rainsy over Trump. On November 26, the widely circulated Nokorwat News Daily placed portraits of the pair side-by-side on the main slot of the newspaper’s front page next to an article about similar comments by Hun Sen.

The article was titled Hun Sen: I Am Waiting to See, What Will These Two People Do? This Was Truly an Attack on Hun Sen’s Head That Struck the US President on the Head, and featured Hun Sen accusing the pair of “incendiary and childish politics.”

Reached yesterday, Ear suggested the premier and CPP-friendly news media, failed to recognise some basic differences between the US and Cambodia.

“In America, we can say what we want about Trump or any other public figure. I wish it were true in other countries,” Ear wrote in an email. “As US citizens, we don’t become refugees for doing so; indeed, we’re part of a long and celebrated tradition.”

“As to why this is happening, I can only surmise that like so much else in Cambodia, I’m just collateral damage for the campaign against Sam Rainsy, with whom I have no association whatsoever,” he said.

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