On October 17, Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered a blistering
speech in Kampong Cham, televised nationwide on Television Kampuchea (TVK). In the
course of a two-hour oration Hun Sen defended his controversial border treaty talks,
threatened his detractors, and called into question the continuation of the Khmer
monarchy. The BBC translated the speech into English and excerpts are reprinted here.
Beginning his speech Hun Sen recalled the US war in South Vietnam and the preparations
for the US departure and then the "Khmerization of the war, that is, Cambodians
fighting Cambodians". Hun Sen also recalled some events from and prior to the
Pol Pot era of the Khmer Rouge regime. in which monks were maltreated Hun Sen said:
"At that time Pol Pot was not prominent yet."
"The ones who were prominent were Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Samdech
Pen Nout. This was how it was. Had [I] known that it was already Pol Pot then, [I]
would not have followed you [Sihanouk]. It was just that the president of the front
was Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and the prime minister was Samdech Pen Nout. That's
why I and others responded. That was the story. You cannot change history. In Jakarta
[during the informal talks between warring Cambodian factions] the King [Sihanouk]
asked me to be his equal. This is still on tape [chuckle]. He asked me to be his
equal in Jakarta in 1988."
Hun Sen also said that in 1989 Sihanouk accused him of being a Khmer Rouge and Hun
Sen retorted: "No, I refused to be equals. No, it cannot be. There are three
factors why this cannot be so. First, you [Sihanouk] are the chief and I am a subordinate.
I was only 18 years old then: you appealed for people to join in the jungle; I had
to follow. So, you were the chief and I was the subordinate. If there were rewards,
you would receive the biggest reward while I, a simple soldier, would only get the
clapping. If there were rewards. However, if there were punishments, you would be
severely punished while I would go free" [brief applause from the audience].
Hun Sen said the second reason for him to refuse to be Sihanouk's equal was that
"when I was leading the struggle against Pol Pot, you [Sihanouk] were the head
of Democratic Kampuchea, head of state of Democratic Kampuchea. Even though you had
resigned, you were still with the Khmer Rouge."
For his third reason Hun Sen said: "Today, we are sitting here together, you
as the head of the tripartite coalition government with the Khmer Rouge in it, and
I, the head of the government opposing the Khmer Rouge."
Turning to the current Cambodian border problem, Hun Sen said: "I would like
to take this opportunity to thank the clergy, the people, and all sections of the
armed forces for supporting the Royal Government and myself in solving the border
problem with neighboring countries. I would like to express thanks for all the support
in the form of petitions, contributions to radio talk shows."
For almost the next hour of his speech Hun Sen talked about the border problems,
laced with anecdotes, and strongly criticized his detractors saying "these people
cannot be forgiven" and that "they have to be dealt will legally."
He said: "Now, two of them are already in prison. There are three others; one
of them in France. No, another four, one of them in France; another one in Holland;
while the other two are said to have fled to Thailand. And the court has issued warrants.
In this case we can contact Thailand for the arrest because we have extradition treaty
Hun Sen add-ed: "Now we are considering suing Sisowath Thomico who is the cousin
of the current King. Even a royal family member is sued. I have already said this."
Hun Sen accused Sisowath Thomico of issuing a statement through Voice of America
radio, adding that "His Majesty the King [Sihamoni], Samdech Euv [Sihanouk].
and Samdech Mae [Queen Mother Monineath] who have a nephew, and the King who has
a cousin, please leave this to the tribunal. You [Sisowath Thomico] have no immunity."
Hun Sen also talked about preparing a document for public dissemination showing what
happened up to 1999, and "if you [Sisowath Thomico] could not answer, you, prince,
go to Prey Sar [prison]. I'd like to stress this. I cannot take this. I am willing
to lower myself, not just stepping down from my post but also submitting myself to
the tribunal in the event it was found that I was the one causing the loss of the
Kingdom of Cambodia's territory. Let the court try me, be it a national or international
tribunal." Continuing, Hun Sen said: "Who did this? It is the same group,
the one that sentenced the King [Sihanouk] to death. Those people in fact wanted
to insult the King. They, however, dared not do it."
Hun Sen said the Royal Government and the National Assembly work together on this
border issue and retorted to non-governmental organizations saying that "non-governmental
organizations are set up by even five persons; there is nothing difficult about setting
up non-governmental organizations." Hun Sen added: "Even the King [Sihanouk]
dared to issue a statement, on 9 or 10 [October], defending the royal family, and
all former kings since the Angkor period, no matter how bad those kings. So, why
not give Hun Sen the chance to defend himself? Who does not know history, Chey Chetha
II [a Cambodian king who married a Vietnamese and allowed Vietnamese to settle in
former Cambodian territory ]."
Hun Sen provided details on a member of the Cambodian royal family in France saying:
"In 1949, the French parliament met and Cambodia's representative was Prince
Yukanthor, who cast an abstention vote on his own territory. He not only did not
claim the land back but also voted abstention. And then I was accused of causing
the territory loss. Now, let's have a talk, regardless of who I have to face. I am
lowering myself, not just stepping down from my position. I will remove myself and
also remove my immunity myself; because it is easy to remove immunity. Resigning
from being a parliament member will remove the immunity. I will go to court to be
"However, this is not different from the story the other day. Swearing in front
of all the Buddha statues: those who violated their words will be struck by lighting
[an offensive curse for Cambodians] [applause]. I am not putting a curse."
Hun Sen added: "And do not say [Sisowath Thomico] is the former King's nephew
and the current King's cousin. Just watch." Continuing, Hun Sen said: "I
have been too patient for too long. This is the limit of my patience. In any case,
my loss of patience will go as far as the law allows. If I did not abide by law,
the armed forces are in my hands, no one can object. If [armed forces Commander in
Chief] Ke Kimyan did not do it, I will use [RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief] Kun Kim.
"However, Ke Kimyan has to do it, if not he will be removed. Do not think because
you are a four-star general; even if you have the moon [and not star on your shoulder],
you will be removed." Hun Sen also stressed: "I am not Samdech Preah Norodom
Sihanouk. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk let others stage a coup. Hun Sen will not.
Do not gamble on trying this. You do it, you die. You are told in advance. And let
this be passed on to the one who appealed at the end of 1993 [changes thought] 2003
to the armed forces to turn their weapons against the government. Consider yourself
lucky, lucky in the sense that Hun Sen did not sue you then. Why? Hun Sen wanted
to see whether your appeal was heeded? And if people responded to your appeal, only
five persons would open fire on Hun Sen, and you died. I wanted to tell you this.
Hun Sen did not sue you because he wanted to see your real strength. Now it is passed
the time suing you, the chairman of something. I am not naming you, but do not use
this language again. Using the language appealing to the armed forces to revolt against
the government does not have to pass through the tribunal, you will be arrested in
your house. You will be arrested first, followed by the discussion with the tribunal
later. This is a coup d'etat crime, and not one of instigation. It is a crime of
ordering a coup d'etat. You will be arrested in your house. Let's talk clearly about
this for once."
Hun Sen then talked about the "weak point" of article 2 of the Cambodian
constitution on using only the "100,000 maps printed between 1933 and 1953"
produced by the French authorities in negotiating Cambodia's border issues with neighboring
countries. Hun Sen argued that Cambodia should have talked only about maps printed
"before 1953" which would allow Cambodia to make use of older maps "from
1928, or 1897". Hun Sen added that this was not because "the government
or the prime minister did not know about this, but the prime minister did not expose
his own constitution to others, to neighboring countries".
Referring to comments that "the government is launching a campaign to repress
democracy, democracy activists," Hun Sen said: "If you did not say something
wrong, I have no need to sue you. I have not closed down your radio or newspaper.
I only arrested individuals. I have not closed down your non-governmental organizations."
Saying that the issue of selling territory is "a serious one, one of treason",
Hun Sen said: "Even though the King wanted to defend his family members, no
matter what, [King] Chey Chetha II remained a traitor. The King has the right to
defend royal family members from the Angkor period down to Norodom Sihanouk, but
who does not about this story. It is since the 1600s, at which time all of us were
still monkeys, and not yet reborn as humans. This is history."
Referring to the "vast territory" of Cambodia now shrunk to the size of
the palm of a hand, Hun Sen asked "Why did you not claim the territory back
then" but "blamed the young generation instead." Continuing Hun Sen
said: "Let's be clear about this. It was just that I did not want to talk about
it earlier. Now it is time Hun Sen talks about it. Hun Sen will talk about it when
the time comes." Hun Sen also talked abut playing back "the tape recorded
in Fere-en-Tardenois [town in France where secret talks were held between Sihanouk
and Hun Sen] on 2 December 1987" in which Hun Sen corrected Sihanouk on the
area of Cambodia when Sihanouk said Cambodia covers 181,000 square kilometers and
Hun Sen injected that it is 181,035.
Hun Sen also warned: "Those supporters in the background who whisper things,
regardless of [who] they are, watch it, I may implicate you." Concluding his
comments on the border demarcation with Vietnam Hun Sen said: "The big issue
is which maps to use, which ones; the ones that the King deposited at the United
Nations. I followed what the father said. If the father said this was wrong, then
the father was also wrong. This is the only conclusion."
Hun Sen added: "After the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops [from Cambodia] in
1989 after toppling the Pol Pot genocidal regime, there were no Vietnamese troops
along the border like in the 1960s. No, there were not any; they were on their side
on the border, we were on ours. Whatever problems we have the authorities along the
border have made efforts to solve them." He also reiterated what he said earlier
in his address about praying that those who violated their words be struck by lightning.
Raising the tone of his voice almost throughout the following passage of his speech,
Hun Sen said: "Right now I am the one administering the country. I should have
the right to defend myself, defend the royal government, and forward the matter to
parliament. In a parliamentary system, the royal government is set up by parliament.
If the government did not do it correctly, parliament should not ratify it. If parliament
ratified it, it is the end of it. Even the Senate has no right to oppose the decision
by parliament, only the right to return it [to parliament]. However, if parliament
maintained that decision, it [pause for nearly 10 seconds] it [the Senate] has to
go along with parliament's decision. Even though the number of Senate members is
half that of the National Assembly, the constitution does not allow the Senate to
have the right to reject the National Assembly's decision, let alone the head of
state, or the King, because the power rests with the people.
"I heard it said that the signing [of the border treaty] will have to be done
by the acting head of state. I do not know who will sign it. All know is that once
parliament adopted it, that is the end of it. This time around, I talked about it
in advance. I have already said this to Samdech Krom Preah Ranariddh. I said prince
[ changes thought] I already said to Excellencies Sun Chanthol, Kol Pheng, Ung Kantha-Phavi,
and Sisowath Panara in the aircraft [returning from Vietnam], and I also told Samdech
Krom Preah in a telephone conversation that if this time around it is difficult to
sign it, we should reconsider whether we should keep the monarchy or change to a
republic with a president instead. Or at least include into the constitution an article
stipulating that it [the border treaty] should be signed within a number of days,
failing which it will take effect.
[Hun Sen at this point turned to talk about the Thai monarchy and the Thai government]
"Even the Thai King has to provide a reasonable reason. The law declaring the
state of emergency in the south faces many problems. When it was submitted, the Thai
King did not sign it; it seemed like for three days. The Thaksin government then
asked why it was not signed. One reason given was that there were too many orthographic
mistakes in it. This law was very contentious. So, the royal palace and the Royal
Government set up a joint group to correct the orthography. The King then signed
it, because once parliament has adopted, it will go forward, there is nothing else.
[Turning to the Cambodian situation] This is because the ones with responsibility
are the National Assembly and the government elected by the people. If there were
one person to go to prison for this, it would be this one, here, and not the King
or the head of state. This is an issue that should be clearly said. Saying this is
not putting pressure on the King or the acting head of state. However, we should
be clear on the parliamentary and presidential systems; it is one or the other. We
are now in the parliamentary system with a reigning King as head of state. In the
other system, which is the US system, a president is elected. However, the price
to pay is the abolishment of the monarchy and the throne, and no more King.
"All of us, however, strive to maintain the constitutional monarchy and defend
the throne. A number of persons, however, like to cheat the young generation. This
is a violation. And let's wait for this evening; there will be many comments saying
that this guy [Hun Sen] is talking as though he is on fire. I have put up with this
for a long time. Non-governmental organizations, please carry on doing your work;
and foreigners, please do not interfere.
"[Referring to those he recently sued for defamation] The other day, he almost
crossed the border. However, young brother, Prey Sar prison was waiting for you;
while the [UN] HCR [High Commission of Refugees] was waiting on the other side. As
far as we know, the HCR is keeping two persons. Now that warrants have been issued,
we should contact Thailand. Let the HCR take the two to board the Thai aircraft,
then arrest them and send them to Cambodia. That would end the matter since there
is an extradition agreement."
As he ended his speech Hun Sen again talked about the prospect of having to choose
between the presidential and the parliamentary system. He said: "I apologized
for using this platform [a monastery] to talk about agriculture, farming production
at the end of the rainy season and in the dry season, and the National Route 7 on
the one hand, and on the other, the border issue, which is related to a big subject
that could lead to a clear social reorganization. What regime is needed: a presidential
or parliamentary system? There should be a price for the two in order to resolve
some issues. Otherwise, the same things would go on; history would repeat itself,
and this is unacceptable."
Immediately after this two-hour long report with Hun Sen's speech, TVK aired an announcer-read
message, dated 27 September 1999, from Sihanouk to Vietnamese leader Pham Van Dong
on the border issue in which Sihanouk proposed the "recognition of the Brevie
line" to demarcate the Cambodian-Vietnamese maritime border. The rest of this
extended TVK programme consisted of petitions, read by a male announcer, from people
in Kampong Cham Province voicing support for the government's handling of the border
problem with Vietnam.