Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM defends crackdowns, offers warning to analyst

PM defends crackdowns, offers warning to analyst

District security guards hit a defenceless man with batons at the scene of a CNRP campaign rally in Phnom Penh in 2014. Yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen compared such crackdowns to the largely violence-free response to anti-Donald Trump rallies in the US.
District security guards hit a defenceless man with batons at the scene of a CNRP campaign rally in Phnom Penh in 2014. Yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen compared such crackdowns to the largely violence-free response to anti-Donald Trump rallies in the US. Heng Chivoan

PM defends crackdowns, offers warning to analyst

In a sweeping, enraged speech yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned NGO workers not to comment on politics, instructing both them and journalists to “be careful” or risk jail time.

In a diatribe that also sought to justify violent political crackdowns in Cambodia by comparing them to post-election protests in the US, the premier appeared to single out one NGO director during an address at a Phnom Penh construction site.

“There is a person who works in an NGO . . . Do not come to make disorder as an analyst – this morning I have seen it,” he said. “Just take my message. Politicians talk with each other about politics and you are from an NGO, so do not make this messy.”

Gesticulating as his voice reverberated with anger, Prime Minister Hun Sen told would-be analysts to “be careful”.

Hun Sen has already sued one analyst, Kim Sok, over comments made to the media regarding the murder of fellow political analyst Kem Ley, and yesterday the media itself also became a target of the premier’s invective.

“If I work for an NGO, I have rights, but when I am wrong, I will be in jail. If I am a journalist, I have rights, but when those rights impact on other people, I will be in jail, because the law [will put] them in jail and [make them] pay money,” he said.

Pro-government news outlet Fresh News yesterday said the premier’s vitriol appeared to be aimed at Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, for comments he made to Phnom Penh Post Khmer, published yesterday morning, about “immature” leaks fostering suspicion.

Panha could not be reached for comment yesterday, nor could the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media’s Pa Nguon Teang or Moeun Chhean Nariddh from the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies.

But Naly Pilorge, of rights group Licadho, said that in an open and democratic society, journalists and civil society players should be able to raise concerns, criticisms and opinions “without fearing arbitrary arrests and detentions”.

“A society that is repressed into silence may greatly risk development in a complex global economy,” she said in a message yesterday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also yet again held court on the state of democracy in the United States, claiming former president Barack Obama may need to seek political asylum in Canada after President Donald Trump accused him of wire-tapping.

“Donald [Trump] continues the conflict, and I will echo it in order to give a lesson to the inciter. For me, I do not get angry with the one who starts the fire, but angry with the person who calls the wind [to fan the flames],” he said, adding that anyone who doubted his word should face death by lightning bolt.

He said demonstrations against the US election results saw a wave of arrests and thus use of force by Cambodian authorities was justified. “What I have done in the past, it is not wrong, because it is for the stability of the Khmer country, and it is the same [as the US],” he said.

He added Cambodia’s often-violent crackdowns on peaceful protests were to “protect all people” and prevent “chaotic demonstrations that damage public order”.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh, reached yesterday, declined to comment.

Phil Robertson, from Human Rights Watch, said Hun Sen’s “latest rant shows that he fully understands how to create ‘Fake News’ just like his new idol, Donald Trump”.

“The problem is [that] in Cambodia, Hun Sen can get away with promoting the big lie because he’s cowed the political opposition with violence and bogus legal prosecutions, and has the Cambodian judges in his back pocket,” he said.


  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there