The Australian government said it will use an upcoming Asean summit in Sydney to confront Prime Minister Hun Sen about his remarks aimed at Australian protesters,which continued today as he goaded them by claiming they had “fallen into his trap” after they burned his effigy last week.
The spat began late last week when Hun Sen warned would-be protesters not to burn his photo, or he would follow them home and beat them.
Protesters promptly took up the challenge and burned effigies bearing the premier’s face.
Speaking at an event in Koh Pich on Friday, Hun Sen described the Australian protesters as “crazy and stupid”.
“Just one poke, and they forget all their work and just only go to burn Hun Sen’s images. Therefore, you played Hun Sen’s game that he drew for you to play,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.
“In fact, speaking truly and clarifying for you, you are being tricked by Hun Sen.”
He added: “Do not play with Hun Sen, you are still very weak.”
Despite repeated requests for comment over the past week and an accumulation of opposition politicians denouncing Hun Sen’s comments, the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs has remained silent on the exchanges.
However, at a Senate Estimates hearing in Australia, Foreign Affairs Secretary Frances Adamson signaled Hun Sen would be spoken to about his violent rhetoric during his upcoming visit for the Australian-Asean Special Summit on March 17 to 18.
“The summit will be used for the [Australian] prime minister and ministers actually to engage their counterparts or aspects of our relationship, including the matter that you’ve raised today,” the representative told Senator Penny Wong.
Julie Heckscher, a first assistant secretary for the foreign department’s Southeast Asia division, said Australian Ambassador Angela Corcoran had met with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn to discuss the issue.
“It’s been made clear that the threats are violent, that there’s a freedom of protest, freedom of expression in Australia and that threats on Australian soil are not acceptable to the Australian government,” Heckscher said. She did not specify any other action or demands Australia made in response to the threats.
“Certainly when one government expresses concerns about certain comments that have been made to another government, I think implicit in that is a comment on what kind of action is needed,” Heckscher added.
Senator Wong said: “Some might say stronger words might be required.”
“What is deeply concerning about this is this seems to be the second occasion in which activities in Australia whether in relation to the opposition leader or protesters, is being used either, in one case, arrest, or in this case, public threats, by the Cambodian leadership,” she said. “That is a concern.”