Germany’s ambassador to Cambodia on Friday slammed National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha for holding up the tactics of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as an example of how to maintain social order, saying that “nobody in his right mind would ever want to refer to Hitler as a role model.”
Joachim Baron von Marschall, who was appointed ambassador to Cambodia in 2013, also implored the government to approach national and public security in a manner “in line with democratic principles and contrary to the way the Nazis handled security matters.”
Speaking at an annual meeting of Phnom Penh’s military police on Thursday, General Sokha said he drew inspiration from the rise of Germany under Hitler in the 1930s.
“Speaking frankly, I learned from Hitler,” Gen. Sokha said. “Germany, after World War I, was not allowed by the international community to have more than 100,000 soldiers, but the Nazis and Hitler did whatever so they could wage World War II.”
Contacted on Friday, Mr. Baron von Marschall said he was “shocked” that anyone would look to the leader of the murderous Nazi regime—which oversaw the deaths of some 6 million Jews in the Holocaust and also killed millions of homosexuals, communists, Gypsies, prisoners of war and disabled people in the 1930s and 1940s —for guidance.
“I must admit that I was quite shocked about these remarks as I would have thought that nobody in his right mind would ever want to refer to Hitler as a role model,” he said in an email.
“The only explanation I can muster is that there is a profound lack of understanding for the dimension of brutality which the Nazi regime applied against anybody who they felt was standing in their way,” he said.
Senior opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said she was “totally, totally appalled” by Gen. Sokha’s comments and called for him to be removed from his position.
“I’m more than appalled,” she said. “I’m terrified about the consequences that protesters would have to bear if this man continues to be the military police commander of Cambodia,” she said.
Ms. Sochua said Gen. Sokha’s words were especially disturbing because Cambodia and Germany shared a history of genocide.
“He has to realize the consequences of his words as a commander in this country, and especially for Cambodia, a country that has gone through genocide. And to now hear that a commander is inspired by Hitler is a sad day for Cambodia,” she said.
Gen. Sokha could not be reached Friday. A man claiming to be the general’s bodyguard answered his telephone and said his boss was in a meeting.
National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito, however, said that Gen. Sokha mentioned a number of famous world leaders in his speech on Thursday, but did not mean for his audience to see them as role models.
“After he spoke, he sent a message [to those present] not to take his words for interpretation,” Brigadier General Tito said.
(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)