The Cambodian People’s Party has demanded authorities take action against two more CNRP figures, including a lawmaker, over a speech in France that referred to the ruling party regime as a “beast” and “puppets of Vietnam”.
Sending yet another chill down the spines of government opponents and critics, the letter by the CPP singled out French-based activist Ly Poeung and lawmaker for Prey Veng province Tout Khoeut. It demands action against the two men, but acknowledges that Khoeut was simply in attendance at an event in Lyon, France, on February 25, where Poeung made remarks the party characterised as “defamatory”.
Poeung’s speech, it says, was a “public insult” levelled at “the government led by the CPP and its leaders” aimed at “inciting to cause discrimination, hatred between Khmer and Khmer”, which caused “serious chaos to social security” and “threatened peace in Cambodia”.
“The appeal used insulting words and is baseless. [It used] words such as beast regime gangster, foolish, Vietnamese puppets, [and accused the government of] killing Khmer people worse than the Khmer Rouge regime, electoral fraud, robbing and threatening to shoot people,” the letter reads. “The CPP would like to appeal to the leaders of the CNRP to 1) clearly explain about this unfortunate appeal 2) apologise to the government led by the CPP [and its leaders] in public 3) take disciplinary measures against Ly Poeung and Tout Khoeut.
“The CPP would also like to appeal to authorities to take immediate measures to investigate the case and take action following legal procedures.”
Reached yesterday evening by phone, Poeung, a worker in an auto parts store and a regional leader for the opposition party network in Lyon, said he was “disappointed by the CPP’s reaction but not surprised”.
He stood by his comments.
“I have followed the situation in Cambodia since the Vietnamese occupation. We have many problems in the country, people are still poor, and [the leaders] are stealing things from our country to get rich,” he said. “But nobody can criticise Hun Sen ... if you criticise him, you go to jail.”
Poeung, who has lived in France since 1985, said he had returned to Cambodia three times, the last trip in 2005, but didn’t plan to return until Prime Minister Hun Sen was no longer in power.
Khoeut was unreachable yesterday.
Reached by phone, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan took umbrage at the speech and demanded an apology. He said, presently, the CPP would not seek to arrest the men because they were in France.
“We demand them to make a public apology because they insulted the legal government,” Eysan said. “Their activities are not only in France, they also do this in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles in the USA and other places where there are Cambodian communities living.”
As well launching a slew of lawsuits against opposition figures in Cambodia, which many consider political attacks, the CPP has also turned its attention to critics abroad. Last year, the Foreign Ministry banned Cambodian-Australian politician Hong Lim from entering the country after he called the government a “beast” following the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.
Official spokespeople for the CNRP were not reachable last night, but a senior lawmaker, who requested anonymity, said his colleagues were now “very careful” about speaking out publicly. “It does not matter who you are, everybody is a target.”