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Facing possible sanctions, PM criticises Washington’s rights record

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PM Hun Sen hits back at US at a graduation ceremony at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh yesterday. Facebook

Facing possible sanctions, PM criticises Washington’s rights record

While United States congressmen are discussing the Cambodia Democracy Act and an amendment that could impose more sanctions against Cambodia’s government, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday counterattacked by questioning the respect of human rights and democracy under the US-backed Lon Nol regime, and also in Iraq more than a decade after the US invasion.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh, the prime minister also attacked self-exiled Sam Rainsy, the current head of the Cambodian National Rescue Movement (CNRM), who alleged Hun Sen is the one behind the presence of a number of minor political parties competing in the July 29 national elections.

“It is not a joke that more than 20 parties will be competing in the election, and you consider those parties the creation of Hun Sen’s party?” the prime minister asked.

“It seems like they are underestimating those parties, calling them ahp parties, which only have a head, or ‘firefly’ parties. All political parties, either big or small, have the same rights in a democracy.”

Ahp, in Khmer, refers to a type of spirit with a head but no body.

Some small parties competing in the polls have dismissed the claim that they were created by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Kong Monika, the founder of Khmer Will Party, which was created by former CNRP officials, has told The Post that his party was created to advocate democracy, and that it has nothing to do with the CPP.

The premier went on to question the support from the US, which claims to be the leader of democratic ideals, to Lon Nol’s Khmer Republic government in the 1970s.

“Democracy or human rights is not born in a country during wartime,” Hun Sen said. “Receiving support from outside, did Lon Nol uphold human rights and democratic development? He did not. And you, Father of Democracy, supported the Lon Nol regime in Phnom Penh,” he said, referring to the US.

“Lon Nol’s soldiers beheaded people, and the photos showing that still exist today. Was that [an example of] respecting human rights?”

Hun Sen reaffirmed that he would do anything to prevent the country’s hard-earned peace from being destroyed and recalled what led to war in countries in the Middle East.

“Libya, Syria, Yemen … and how about other war-torn countries such as Sudan, Mali and Central Africa?” he asked. “How are human rights and democracies in those countries? No matter what, we have to continue working hard to maintain peace and uphold a multiparty democracy.”

The Post did not receive a response from Rainsy as of press time. But in a letter to the editor on Sunday, he said, “Hun Sen’s coup in Cambodia can’t gain legitimacy from a bogus election".

“Mr Hun Sen, knowing that he was unable to halt this fundamental shift in favour of the opposition, staged a constitutional coup in late 2017.

“The leader of the CNRP [the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party], Mr Kem Sokha, was thrown into prison despite his parliamentary immunity, and the CNRP was dissolved following an accusation of ‘treason’.”

Election expert Yoeurng Sothera said he welcomed more parties competing in July’s election.

“I welcome and am glad to see the many political parties have registered for the elections. But I don’t know if the people trust the system of choosing representatives by means of elections.”

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