Critic of Hun Sen Says Give PM a Chance

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s most vocal international detractor downplayed past criticisms after a one-day visit to Phnom Penh, and said he should be given a year in office before being judged.

US Congressman Dana Rohra­bacher, who just four months ago referred to Hun Sen as a “little gangster,” said there is still hope for the prime minister to show he is a “true democrat.”

“I think we’ve got to watch what he’s going to do in the next 12 months,” he said. “There is no reason to attack people for what they’ve done in the past, in terms of people participating in the democratic process.”

Rohrabacher urged Hun Sen Friday to pursue an internationally credible Khmer Rouge tribunal, officials said Sunday.

The two discussed how international involvement would serve as an important tool to fully and credibly disclose atrocities of the 1975-79 regime, said Eang Soph­alleath, an aide to Hun Sun who attended the meeting.

Hun Sen and Rohrabacher agreed “the process [should] bring out all the facts concerning the period so people can be assured that all the facts…are fully aired,” said US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann, who was also present at the hourlong meeting.

Rohrabacher’s constituency includes the largest Cambodian population in the US. He auth­ored a non-binding resolution condemning Hun Sen as a “war criminal.” And last fall, he vowed “never” to support him because of his communist past.

After his brief visit, he ex­pressed optimism for the country’s future, telling reporters, “I was much more pessimistic looking at the situation from a distance then I am now.”

In his meeting, Rohrabacher also discussed with the prime minister the broader issue of democracy, Wiedemann and Eang Sophalleath said.

The congressman told Hun Sen—the ruler of Cambodia since 1985—that the most important contribution the US’ first president, George Washington, made was encouraging leadership that was not lifelong, Wiedemann said. Hun Sen agreed with Rohra­bacher that no one should lead a country for life, according to the ambassador.

Rohrabacher also met with King Norodom Sihanouk, Nat­ional Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, as well as opposition officials, according to a Sam Rainsy Party statement.

The opposition party also awarded the congressman a medal.

(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)

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