During a lavish ceremony on Tuesday marking 65 years since the ruling CPP’s birth as a revolutionary communist party, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of grave threats at home and potentially disastrous repercussions of outside meddling in regional disputes over the South China Sea.
In a 30-minute scripted speech delivered to hundreds of party officials and members at the CPP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh, the premier reviewed the party’s reforms and policies, and stressed the need to repress any element of political change for the sake of maintaining hard-won peace.
“We are resolutely against every political trick to change society through the instigation of a color revolution or other perfidious means, which would cause the country to lose peace, stability and national unity, and sink into a new disaster,” he said.
Speaking in the wake of a slew of arrests and legal action against government critics, Mr. Hun Sen called on individuals to face the law—an apparent swipe at opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, who are both avoiding arrest—and told “foreign circles” to respect Cambodia’s legal institutions and sovereignty.
Near the end of his speech, Mr. Hun Sen spoke at length about Cambodia’s position on disputes between China and Asean countries with claims to parts of the South China Sea. Cambodia has been accused of acting as China’s proxy within Asean, helping ensure the bloc does not unite to defend its members’ territorial claims.
“Cambodia has again and again become the victim of the South China Sea issue because of unjust accusations,” the premier said.
Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines all have overlapping claims with China, while the U.S. has spoken out against Chinese island-building in the sea and has promised to keep the waters open. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to make a decision this month in a case brought against China by the Philippines.
“The CPP does not support—and more so is against—any declaration by Asean to support the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in relation to the South China Sea disputes,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that a statement of support from Asean could lead to regional divisions.
“Efforts by some countries outside the region to mobilize forces against China would bring negative impacts on Asean and peace in the region,” he said.