Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son Hun Manet returned yesterday from an almost two-week trip to Australia, complaining about protests that met him there and suggesting that the ruling party had the capacity to stage protests of its own.
The CNRP has insisted it was not behind the protests that met Manet in the cities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, but upon his return to Phnom Penh yesterday, Manet told reporters he still believed leaders of the party in Australia were the organisers.
The protesters, he continued, had crudely cursed him as “a ghost and an evil spirit that eats religious offerings”, instead of offering constructive criticism, and left him confused about their intent.
“What was the benefit?” Manet asked.
“I just came to hear about [what Cambodian-Australians think about] our country. So why are they looking down on me, causing divisions and conflicts? Is this the benefit of the demonstrations?
“Wherever I go, there is always hate. It was not different from the US,” he added. “But do not forget that there was a lot of people joining in and supporting [my visit].”
Manet reiterated that he still believed the CNRP in Cambodia was behind the protests, and brought up CNRP lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun, who has also been known to make trips abroad.
“If the CNRP really did hold [the protests], what does that mean?” Manet asked. “Don’t forget that the CPP has forces – but we don’t use them. Nhay Chamroeun goes everywhere and there is no one from the CPP rallying and shouting with banners.
“In Phnom Penh, we haven’t done that.”
Manet, however, failed to acknowledge that Chamroeun and fellow CNRP lawmaker Kong Saphea were savagely beaten outside the National Assembly last year by a mob that included three of Hun Sen’s bodyguards following a protest promoted by the premier.
Hun Sen had foreshadowed the protest from abroad, after being similarly angered by protesters on a trip to France.
The diaspora has long been a stronghold of the opposition, and Manet was last year put in charge of leading the CPP’s first counter-efforts at outreach in countries like Australia, the US and France. However, he yesterday denied that was his intent on the trip.
“With my presence abroad, I am not breaking anyone’s rice pot. I am not forcing [anyone] and not stealing anyone’s rice pot. I am abroad to meet with people voluntarily,” Manet said. “I do not go overseas to gain financial support to help the CPP.
“Don’t accuse me of breaking the rice pot. If the rice is good, there would be no one running from it.”