Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday launched a not-so-thinly-veiled attack on the US over its recent public airing of concerns over the newly amended Law on Political Parties, arguing that its past bombing of Cambodia left it no moral high ground from which to criticise the government.
The US Embassy’s Monday statement had expressed concern that the changes – which open the door to dissolving parties whose leaders have criminal convictions gave the government “broad authority to restrict freedom of expression and the legitimate activities of political parties”. It also decried the “vaguely defined circumstances” that allowed for a party’s dissolution.
But speaking at a graduation ceremony yesterday, the prime minister suggested the embassy’s concerns were hypocritical.
“When you dropped bombs on our country, did you ever think about human rights?” he said. “The law passed by National Assembly is not killing Cambodian people as you did to Cambodian people.”
He then added that the law had been done for the “unity” of Cambodia. “Do you want a colour revolution? Make clear on this,” he said, once again raising the bugbear of a popular uprising against his rule.
The Foreign Ministry doubled down later in the day, releasing a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” at the US’s “inappropriate reaction” to the amendments, adding that their statement was based on “groundless suspicions”.
In response, a US Embassy spokesman said only that the US was committed to its long-standing promotion of human rights and democracy and stood behind its February 20 statement.
Koul Panha, head of election monitor Comfrel, said the premier’s use of the word “unity”, against the backdrop of the recent changes to legislation, was questionable. “Unity cannot be only from one party,” he said. “Unity is not just a top-down approach; the people need to be engaged.”