Even as he expressed condolences for the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday that left 59 people dead, Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared yesterday to suggest that the incident was a kind of cosmic rebuke following American warnings to its citizens about safety in the Kingdom.
“When the US ambassador called for Americans to be careful in Cambodia, it did not happen in Cambodia but on US soil,” Hun Sen said. “Yet the US is the one who made the appeal. This is the mocking of fate.”
Hun Sen, who was speaking to garment workers in Por Sen Chey district yesterday, was referring to the embassy’s September 13 security warning regarding increasing “anti-American rhetoric” in light of the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha and the expulsion of American NGO the National Democratic Institute.
In the security message, the US Embassy warned its citizens to avoid large crowds and to be vigilant about personal security in Cambodia.
“The [US Ambassador William Heidt], before Pchum Ben, reminded American people in Cambodia to be careful about security, but this problem has not happened in Cambodia,” Hun Sen said.
The embassy declined to comment yesterday, referring reporters instead to a statement released by Heidt last month in which he noted that recent events in the Kingdom – many of them tinged with anti-Americanism – “aren’t hurting the United States, they are hurting Cambodia”.
A lone gunman shooting from the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas on Sunday night killed 59 people and injured hundreds of others.
In between comments about the embassy’s security warning, Hun Sen offered his condolences to victims of the shooting, which he called a “tragedy”.
He also waded into the gun control debate, stating that the US “has no strict management on weapons” and warning Cambodians living there to be careful “since [the US] is not secure or stable”.
“Shootings at schools, stores and other places will continue taking place,” he said.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng also offered his opinions on the shooting at a ministry meeting about citizenship yesterday, blaming lobbyists for blocking gun control legislation in America.
“They don’t use the word corruption but they use the word lobby,” Kheng said.
Expressing disbelief that the shooter had access to so many firearms, the minister added: “This is an experience for us to learn from. It does not mean we’re mocking our foreigner friends.”
San Chey, director of NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said Hun Sen’s comments will likely strain an already tense relationship with the US.
“Both old and young politicians in both small and big countries should be talking about how to make things better for people’s well-being, rather than mocking each back and forth,” Chey said.
Additional reporting by Kong Meta