Duterte Defends Bloody Drug War on Arrival

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao touched down in Phnom Penh on Tuesday as part of a two-day visit to the capital, where the president used a speech to Filipino expatriates in the country to defend his bloody war on drugs.

“If you will destroy my country, and if you deprive us of the youth of our next generation, then who will take care of society?” he said of the scourge of drugs in the Philippines, speaking to a packed room at the Hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra.

cam photo duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte greets members of Cambodia’s Filipino community on Tuesday evening as he arrives at the Sofitel hotel in Phnom Penh. (Reuters)

“You know the constant use of shabu will shrink the brain of a human being,” he said of the form of methamphetamine most widely used in the Philippines, adding that foreign countries who criticize his war on drugs didn’t seem to understand the severity of the problem.

“The other countries treat it with triviality, but I have here 4 million drug addicts to deal with,” he said. “It’s a legitimate statement when you say you will kill someone who wants to kill your country. When has it been wrong to say that?”

More than 5,900 suspected drug dealers or users have been killed in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs since July, according to Philippine National Police. Mr. Duterte has been fending off foreign criticism over the campaign for months.

After the U.N. issued a statement in August calling on the president to end extrajudicial killings related to the offensive, he said it might be time to separate from the global body. “I will prove to the world that you are a very stupid expert,” he said at the time.

Today, the president has a jam-packed schedule in Phnom Penh, including meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen at his “Peace Palace” and King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace.

According to the Manila Bulletin, the two countries are expected to sign mutual accords on tourism, sports development, labor protection and transnational crime fighting efforts.

The proposed agreement on cross-border crimes seeks to enhance Philippine and Cambodian police’s partnership in combating “terrorism, extremism, financial and economic crimes, and drug trafficking,” Christopher Montero, Philippine ambassador to Cambodia, was quoted as saying.

Mr. Pacquiao’s itinerary was less clear last night, after the boxing legend postponed a planned meet and greet with members of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.

Both Mr. Duterte and Mr. Pacquiao are divisive characters internationally, but maintain huge support in their homeland. Mr. Pacquiao lost his sponsorship deal with Nike in February after stating that same-sex couples “are worse than animals.”

Mr. Hun Sen made global headlines in May last year, when he slammed the decision to score what was billed as the “fight of the century” between Mr. Pacquiao and U.S. fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr. in favor of the latter. The prime minister said he placed a $5,000 bet on the match, but said he would not pay up in protest of the decision.

meyn@cambodiadaily.com, sothear@cambodiadaily.com

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