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Envoy responds to Sao Sokha

Envoy responds to Sao Sokha

Germany's ambassador to Cambodia said yesterday that learning lessons from history is a “necessary approach towards creating a future” in Cambodia, after a senior military official said he “learned from Hitler”.

National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha drew criticism from the ambassador, Joachim Baron von Marschall, after he told his subordinates at a meeting in Phnom Penh last week that he learned from the Nazi dictator.

But, speaking out for the first time on Sunday, Sokha told the Post that his remarks had been misinterpreted.

“What I was saying was to teach them [the military police] to learn what is bad and what is good; among those, Hitler is one lesson to be learnt,” he said. “I neither admire him nor follow him, and I am not saying my subordinates should either.”

In response to Sokha’s explanation, Baron von Marschall said yesterday that such an approach was important.

“No doubt, learning lessons from history is a useful, even necessary approach towards creating the future,” he said by email. “If there is one key conclusion that one can draw from the Nazi period of German history, then it is that unless police and military forces are guided by responsible and democratically minded leaders, disaster will strike sooner or later and leaders may eventually themselves fall victim to the forces they have helped to unleash,” he added.

Sokha’s comments were reportedly made amid speeches defending the authorities’ deadly crackdown on protests last January.

Baron von Marshall said he would welcome “any opportunity to specify and enter into a dialogue on this subject”.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Svay Rieng province yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen weighed in on the dispute over the remarks.

“Even the speech of Sao Sokha was widely misinterpreted, [as him] saying people should learn from Hitler, while [he] actually meant not to follow Hitler”, the premier said amid criticisms of the opposition CNRP.

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