Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday night told Cambodia’s starlets to either name their high-profile government lovers or keep quiet, telling a room full of journalists he did not want to be tarred with the same brush.
Addressing more than 3,400 people at the second annual journalists meet on Koh Pich, the premier also implied the government could access phone records to discover illicit affairs.
Referring to scandalous coverage of the lives and loves of Cambodia’s film stars, Hun Sen said that “some usually claim that the high-ranking officials and oknhas chase them for love, and now I want to ask, which high-ranking officials?”
“Oknha Kith Meng, or who? Which official? [Information Minister Khieu] Kanharith or who? There are many officials – you should reveal the name, and I do not mind that. But when you say it like this, it affects other officials,” he said, “including me”.
Meng, head of the Royal Group, did not respond to requests for comment. Kanharith, who also attended Sunday’s event, did not respond to the premier making an example of him.
Though the premier did not refer to her directly, actress Denny Kwan – whom the government temporarily banned from working in Cambodia for being “too sexy” – earlier this month told a Fresh News talk show that many high-ranking government officials old enough to be her father had contacted her seeking an affair
Hun Sen on Sunday went on to say he was “annoyed with and bored with your girlishness”.
“I hope that from today onward . . . [you will] just be silent about your sex affairs.”
But the hazards of naming high-profile lovers were apparently overlooked by Hun Sen. The premier himself was alleged to have been involved in an affair with actress Piseth Pelika, who was gunned down in broad daylight in 1999. That same year, Tat Marina, a teenage karaoke video star, was doused in acid, allegedly by the wife of Svay Sitha, then an undersecretary of state.
Hun Sen said actresses were “extremist” for accusing unnamed married oknhas or government ministers of pursuing them romantically or behaving badly. He questioned whether the women were telling the truth or if they “just want to become famous”.
His comments come at a time when women, through the #MeToo movement, are publicly calling out men who use their positions of power to sexually harrass them.
Ros Sopheap, from Gender and Development for Cambodia, said women were unlikely to speak out, at risk of their personal safety or damage to their careers, and said young actresses approached for an affair may not be in a position to refuse.
In his speech, the premier warned that such affairs would not remain a “mystery” for long.
“I will open your eyes, because nothing is secret in this era,” he said. “The phone that you are using . . . will be recorded by the company because they need to charge you. For this case, if they want to know, your secret will be discovered.”
The comments come some 18 months after Anti-Corruption Unit head Om Yentieng said his unit could tap phones whenever it wanted, in relation to a leaked recording of now jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha speaking with an alleged mistress.
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications spokesman Khov Makara stressed that companies kept track of the time and length of calls, but did not record “the substance”.