Despite Political Speech, Government Says Red Cross Neutral

The Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) is still an independent organization despite its president’s very public attack on the CNRP during a flood donation event on Satur­day, a government official said.

CRC president Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, used the donation of flood relief in Pailin province to accuse the political opposition of trying to “cheat” the public. Ms. Rany also said that only her husband’s long-ruling CPP could be counted on to provide assistance to victims of natural disaster.

Ms. Rany’s speech placed in stark relief years of criticism that the public sees the Red Cross movement as an arm of the CPP.

“They [CRC] operate independently from the government. We do not have any regulations to regulate the Red Cross at all,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers.

Despite coverage in the media, Mr. Siphan said that he was un­aware of the anti-opposition party speech made in Pailin, and claimed that Ms. Rany’s marriage to the prime minister did not affect her work as CRC president.

“She is only involved as a private person in private activities and spends her own money and her own resources, so she can do anything she likes,” Mr. Siphan said, without elaborating.

On its website, the CRC states that it abides by the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Move­ment, which in­clude neutrality.

“In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Move­ment may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature,” according to the CRC’s website.

Neither the CRC in Phnom Penh nor the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bangkok responded to request for comment Monday on the movement’s stance in mixing politics with humanitarian assistance.

“Bun Rany doesn’t have anything to deal with the government, she is simply wife of the prime minister,” Mr. Siphan also said, adding that it was tradition for wives of high-ranking government officials or the royalty to lead the CRC.

Currently, Mr. Siphan said, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath is an honorary president of the CRC.

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