After a stern public reprimand of his underlings on Monday for failing to resolve the country’s myriad land disputes, Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at NGO monitors yesterday for questioning his professed lack of knowledge about certain disputes.
Hun Sen said on Monday that he had only learned about a recent highly publicised land dispute after seeing protesters clutching his portrait in a newspaper, and blamed provincial officials for often leaving him in the dark about events and failing to send information to Phnom Penh.
But yesterday the premier slammed “rude” NGO workers who had commented on his apparent lack of knowledge and questioned whether they had “heads made of iron”.
“Why did you say I didn’t know anything at all?… You are damn rude, saying the premier does not know anything at all,” an angry Hun Sen said during a speech at the National Institute for Education.
“I was talking about the last stage [of people coming to the capital], which no one had reported to me,” he continued. “It’s simply a matter of a lack of documents.… That’s all.”
Demonstrating his devotion to the land issue, the PM referenced numerous past disputes that he had solved “overnight”.
“You have happiness because of the premier. The war ended and you can walk around the country. NGOs have been created. But you say such stupid things. Don’t be so rude, boys.”
He also fired a warning shot at civil society, using a Khmer saying about the importance of thinking before speaking. “Before speaking out, you need to move your tongues around your mouths 5,000 times.”
Ny Chakyra, head of human rights at watchdog Adhoc, who made comments to VOA following the PM’s speech, said that his criticisms of Hun Sen were within his rights.
“What I said in the past is just freedom of expression and our staff have always offered analysis [on issues]. But the analysis cannot be 100 per cent accepted [by listeners] or considered as 100 per cent correct.”