Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday announced plans to meet “thousands” of supporters in the US for the first time after his landslide victory in July’s national elections, polls described as allegedly “flawed” by many Western nations.
In the meantime, opposition figure Sam Rainsy is set to lead a mass rally against the prime minister.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won all 125 seats in the National Assembly in elections criticised by the White House as “neither free nor fair [and] failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people”.
The US reasoned that this was the case after the Supreme Court dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the arrest on treason charges of its former president Kem Sokha.
Hun Sen is invited to the US as Cambodian leader to participate in the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York from Thursday to Sunday. The Kingdom is set to play an important role at the meeting as Vice-President of the UNGA.
The prime minister posted on his Facebook page that while there he also plans to meet CPP supporters who live in the US.
“I will take the opportunity to meet and speak with Khmer-Americans who live in the US. Regardless of where they live, they are still part of one big Cambodian family."
“I would like to pay respects to and greet all Khmer-Americans who plan to meet me in the near future,” Hun Sen said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that there would be CPP supporters in their thousands to welcome Hun Sen.
Meanwhile, CNRP supporters announced that Rainsy, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, is also to lead “thousands” of supporters of the former opposition party to demonstrate during Hun Sen’s visit to the UN.
According to the CNRP announcement, Rainsy will lead a “mass rally” on Friday at United Nations Plaza in New York from 10am-3pm. It says the protest will call on the international community not to recognise Hun Sen’s “illegitimate government”.
They will call on the international community not to recognise a government created from “fake” elections, while protest organisers have warned that they aim to throw eggs at the prime minister’s convoy.
Rainsy did not respond to a request for comment as of press time on Tuesday.
Hon Susakoeun, a Khmer-American CNRP supporter residing in North Carolina and a rally organiser, said he hopes thousands of Cambodians will participate in the Rainsy-led protest against Hun Sen’s official visit to the US.
“We will protest against Hun Sen’s dictatorial regime – an illegitimate government created through elections after the CNRP was dissolved and which is not acceptable to us. We will raise banners calling for the release of Kem Sokha who is under house arrest,” he said.
He said that he had not seen any Khmer-Americans show support for Hun Sen.
“I have not encountered Khmer-Americans who support the CPP, especially in North Carolina where I live. I have not seen any CPP support at all,” he claimed.
Political analyst Meas Nee said he believes that protests by Cambodians living in the US could damage the prime minister’s reputation while he is in New York.
“When a country draws criticism from foreign [governments], its leader’s image is affected. When that leader visits a foreign country and faces demonstrations held by his own compatriots or criticism from foreign [governments] or international institutions, it affects [his image].
“As for the demonstrators, they have the right to protest. For a leader, his or her image matters [and so] demonstrators fulfil their role as opposition activists,” he said.