Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated on Wednesday his government’s support of the monarchy. In words welcomed by the royalist Funcinpec party, he said those wanting to harm the royal family would have to “walk over his dead body first”.
Speaking in Switzerland on Wednesday to 900 members of the Cambodian community in Europe, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president defended the Kingdom’s lese majeste law, which came into force early this year and has been roundly condemned by human rights advocates and the UN.
“I say it over and over again, if you want to destroy the monarchy, you will need to walk over Hun Sen’s dead body."
“I have advised my children and grandchildren to protect the King and the monarchy … We have brought in punishments that can extend to imprisonment [for attacking the King] and they criticise us and want us to withdraw it.
“But in [Cambodia], the [punishment] is less than in Thailand. There, the punishment is many years in prison,” he said.
Hun Sen said [In Cambodia] the King was toppled and it became a republic for 23 years, [and someone asked] why do you maintain [the monarchy]?
“Without you, the monarchy would not be so well protected [they say] because Funcinpec does not have enough influence to do so, and so it requires agreement between the CPP and Funcinpec,” he said.
The Cambodian monarchy was re-established in 1993, decades after a coup toppled the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, led by the US-backed Lon Nol which created the Khmer Republic.
The signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords led to the first national elections in 1993 – after more than two decades.
Funcinpec was founded in 1981 by King Sihanouk, initially as a resistance movement against the Vietnam-supported People’s Republic of Kampuchea government.
It last came to power in the 1993 elections and has since seen its support wane, failing to win a single seat in parliament in the July 29 polls.
“Now, even though Funcinpec has no seats in the National Assembly, the monarchy remains strong. Because of whom? It is because of the CPP that the monarchy is protected,” Hun Sen said.
Funcinpec spokesman Nop Sothearith welcomed the statement from Prime Minister Hun Sen on protecting the monarchy. He claimed his party works with the CPP on the matter.
“The monarchy was re-established by Funcinpec and the CPP in 1993 [and survives] until now. We continue to cooperate together to protect the monarchy.
“[Hun Sen] protects the King and shields the King from contempt. The ruling party adopted the lese majeste law to protect the King. I welcome and congratulate the CPP for passing a law that protects the King,” he said.