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Leaflets knock prime minister

Leaflets knock prime minister

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A man examines copies of the anti-government leaflets that accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of destroying the Khmer nation’s once-great reputation.

Unsigned paper circulated across capital accuses Hun Sen of diminishing Kingdom's glory.

HUNDREDS of anonymous anti-government leaflets condemning Prime Minister Hun Sen as an "absolute leader" and a "puppet of Vietnam" appeared around the streets of Phnom Penh in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The leaflets, bearing a small picture of the premier, warned Cambodian citizens that their present leader was single-handedly responsible for reducing the once-great Khmer nation to ruins.

Partly handwritten and partly typed in Khmer, they accuse the prime minister of "selling the nation" and called on the people of Cambodia to oppose Hun Sen's "puppet regime".

"I am so proud that I was born Khmer," reads one, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post. "The Khmer race built Angkor. I remember the time when Khmer glory was well-known all over the world. We were feared and admired for our civilisation, culture and fine arts, but all that has now disappeared because of the absolute regime of the present government."

The leaflets were printed on A4 paper and appeared in prominent public places across the city - including Wat Phnom - before sunrise, but were swiftly taken down by police, witnesses said.

The government played down the leaflets' significance on Wednesday, insisting that Cambodians would not be swayed by acts of political subversion, and that the real test of their loyalty would be the ballot box.

"This is not the first time such a thing has happened," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said. "This has happened many times before, but the result is always the same at the elections."

Police confirmed on Wednesday that they were investigating the incident, but said the allegations made in the leaflets were "out of date" and failed to take into account the government's current rate of development.

Kirt Chantharith, chief of general staff and spokesman for the commissioner general of the National Police, said: "[They] should not use words like this to insult the leader, but the leaflet is out of date. This game is very old and hasn't worked. National development has been thinking ahead."

Phnom Penh police Chief Touch Naruth echoed the sentiments. "Some people had burned it already because it is saying the same old thing, but they know the true situation," he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, was critical of the language used in the leaflets, warning that the use of such openly inflammatory rhetoric could be counterproductive.

"Insulting someone is not necessarily freedom of expression," he said. "Writers should have clear morals and avoid insulting the government."

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