Hun Manet, military official and son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, met with counterparts in France and supporters in Germany this week, even after both countries lined up to condemn the government’s recent arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha.
An item on government newswire AKP on Friday called the tour a “working visit in France”, and said Manet arrived there on Thursday following “the invitation of the French Ministry of Defence”. The trip was meant to “strengthen the friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and France”.
On Saturday, Manet continued his European tour with a visit to Germany, where he spoke to around 200 supporters according to statements and photographs on his Facebook page. Meanwhile, dozens of protesters organised outside of his hotel in Wellendingen.
“Hun Manet did not go out to meet the Khmer people,” said one of the organisers of demonstrations against Sokha’s arrest that took place earlier this month. He declined to be named out of fear of reprisals against family members in Cambodia.
“That’s not a democratic government, that’s an absolute dictatorship,” he added.
Bopea Komar, a participant at the protest, estimated that about 100 people were there.
“As you see, democracy is chaotic, nonexistent,” Komar said. “That’s why we protested against the presence of Hun Manet.”
Videos of the event circulated on Facebook with protesters holding signs in German, English and Khmer.
“We demand free and fair elections in 2018,” one poster read, while another included the German embassy’s statement requesting Sokha’s immediate release.
While both the French and German embassies expressed “concern” following Sokha’s arrest, neither has promised any concrete action. CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua said the international community’s response thus far has been lacking.
“Of course it is disappointing; of course it is alarming; of course it is of great concern to us,” Sochua said of Manet’s meeting with French government officials.
“Violations of human rights are occurring right in front of us,” she said, singling out members of the military, like Manet, as being particularly culpable.
“The international community needs to take the next step . . . beyond statements,” she added.
Neither the French nor the German embassies responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski