Cambodia's ambassador to South Korea has again come under fire for telling Cambodian expatriates they face “arrest and deportation” if they attend an opposition party event this weekend in Seoul.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Suth Dina told Cambodian workers and students in Korea to shun the reception for visiting Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, while also appealing for greater appreciation of the ruling party.
“[Attendees] can be arrested and sent back to Khmer country immediately,” wrote Dina, who last year discouraged Cambodians in South Korea from attending a planned anti-government rally.
“Therefore, as a royal ambassador to Korea, [I] would like to guide brothers and sisters, as workers and students and both male and female citizens, please do not join or go near the place of the political concert or, what can be called a demonstration, of any opposition party.”
He then went on to say deportees would be shunned by both governments, and appealed for them to appreciate the efforts of the ruling party to provide jobs and support. “It is only the Cambodian People’s Party that offers this money to brothers and sisters, actually this money comes from the efforts of Samdech Techo Hun Sen.”
According to Dina’s post, joining the event could violate people’s employment contract obligations and lead them to commit offences against Korean law, which he did not specify, only saying such activities were “contrary to the diplomatic relationship” between Cambodia and South Korea.
Further, he said, as the opposition was hostile to the Cambodian government, the Korean authorities should not allow the event to take place and could arrest the organisers, who he accused of stirring up racial discrimination.
Responding yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang slammed Dith’s threat and said it was disappointing to see Cambodia’s ambassadors work as partisan activists.
“I have noted that Khmer ambassadors on missions in foreign countries often don’t use their role for the Khmer nation but mostly for the CPP. It is regretful,” Chhay Eang said.
“If Mr Suth Dina uses messages as intimidation like this, he does not deserve to be a Khmer ambassador.”
But government spokesman Phay Siphan said that ambassadors, as CPP members, were free to promote the party in their private capacity.
CPP spokesman Sous Yara said Dina was merely warning Cambodians in Korea without work permits not to approach the opposition for help, which could lead to their arrest.
Yara said the embassy represented all of the more than 10,000 Cambodians in the country and was the only place to go for help with documentation.
Speaking by phone yesterday, Chung Sophal and Yon Samnang, labourers working in Korea, said they weren’t discouraged by the threat.
“I do not have any concerns; I will join [the event] as is my right. I will not do anything illegal,” Samnang said.
The South Korean Embassy did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.