Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hitler remarks misread: Military Police chief

Hitler remarks misread: Military Police chief

Thai Defence Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa (left) shakes hands with military police chief Sao Sokha
Thai Defence Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa (left) shakes hands with military police chief Sao Sokha upon his arrival at the Ministry of Defence in Phnom Penh in 2011. AFP

Hitler remarks misread: Military Police chief

National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha hit out for the first time yesterday at reports that he claims to draw inspiration from Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, arguing that his comments were misinterpreted.

During an annual meeting of Phnom Penh’s military police on Thursday, local media reported that the commander told the crowd he “learned from Hitler”.

Sokha was reported as saying that, if “someone acts like a czar, doing foolish things”, the military police were ready to launch immediate security operations.

“Speaking frankly, I learned from Hitler. Germany, after World War I, was not allowed by the international community to have more than 100,000 soldiers, but the Nazis and Hitler did whatever so they could wage World War II,” he was reported as saying.

His comments were widely circulated and condemned, with rights groups, opposition figures and Germany’s ambassador, Joachim Baron von Marschall, lambasting the commander’s seeming praise of a genocidal regime that was responsible for the systematic murder of millions of “undesirables”.

But, speaking out yesterday, Sokha said his comments, first reported in The Cambodia Daily, had been misunderstood.

Sokha acknowledged that he “raised the name of Hitler” and said that he learned from him, but said the lesson was far from inspirational.

“Our vision is to educate the people to walk on the right path. I just raised Hitler to [encourage people] to learn about him and not follow him,” he told the Post. “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.”

Sokha said that, as head of the military police, he had a “responsibility” to teach his subordinates about such lessons in history so they are not repeated.

Cambodians need to “know, understand, and be careful” so that the Kingdom does not fall into the grips of extremist nationalist ideologies, he said.

“The killing of people and the racism and persecution of another religion is what Hitler did.… I neither admire him nor follow him, and I am not saying my subordinates should either. I am not Hitler,” he added.

Sokha referred to the anti-Vietnamese riots during the 1970 coup and the deaths of Vietnamese nationals and Cham Muslims under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime as reasons there were lessons to learn from Nazism.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he interpreted his superior’s remarks as an effort to teach “the armed forces not to follow the bad methods of Hitler”.

“Like Pol Pot,” he added. “He followed the methods of Hitler and that is why he killed many people.”

But despite claims that the comments had been taken out of context, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua continued yesterday to condemn the remarks, which were made amid speeches defending the authorities’ violent crackdown on protests last January.

“If [there is] someone who is in charge of armed forces who says he learned from Hitler, it is still of concern to us,” she said.

The German ambassador did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway