Prime Minister Hun Sen used a speech Tuesday at an International Women’s Day event in Phnom Penh to quip about the need for a men’s rights organization, also promising to increase the stipend given to the wives and children of state employees.
“I would like to take this opportunity celebrating women’s rights day to demand rights for some men,” he told a crowd of government officials and foreign diplomats gathered at his office building in Phnom Penh.
“Now that you have a rights day, I do not want to mention this, but I know that some women do not allow husbands to go to wedding receptions for fear that their husbands will see beautiful girls,” the prime minister said.
“I appeal for every women to please understand a man’s heart,” he said, adding that he would volunteer as “honorary president” of an association advocating for the rights of men.
Mr. Hun Sen also promised to raise monthly stipends to the wives and children of government employees, a decision that he said followed a complaint to his Facebook page from the wife of a civil servant.
“If it cannot be raised this year, I will settle it by 2017, because this year we already increased and allocated budgets,” he said.
Wives of civil servants currently receive between 6,000 and 10,000 riel, or between $1.50 and $2.50, per month. Each child receives 5,000 riel, or about $1.25.
In an email, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said she did not care to comment on the prime minister’s jokes. She said that if the civil servant stipend was increased, wages for private-sector jobs predominantly held by women should also be raised.
“Factory workers, who are predominantly women, have fought for decent wages for years and very openly,” she said. “It should not take Women’s Day to address women’s issues.”
Additional reporting by Taylor O’Connell