The government has leapt to the defense of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, condemning what it says are the efforts of the opposition and a “few American officials” to halt Cambodia’s steps toward democracy.
Government spokesmen confirmed an eight-page “Open Letter of The Royal Government of Cambodia” is an attempt to counteract a push by some US lawmakers to condemn Hun Sen for alleged human rights violations.
“We are concerned about the image of Cambodia,” spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.
The letter describes a longtime commitment by Hun Sen to human rights going back to 1979.
“Samdech Hun Sen courageously stood up and mobilized Cambodian patriots to liberate their fellow countrymen from the genodical Khmer Rouge,” the statement said. “Was his action considered a violation of international humanity laws?”
“For almost five years, Samdech Hun Sen has strived to build thousands of schools, hospitals, medical clinics…. He introduces Cambodian free market economy to private investors. He endorses freedom of the press and freedom of association,” it said.
The letter implied that the US, which it said “turned and walked away from the Cambodian people” during the Khmer Rouge regime, is in danger of being manipulated by the opposition.
“Regretfully, those few American officials, who lack vision, are poisoned by the unethical propaganda, and the incitement of the opposition leaders,” it reads.
Two US senators, Jesse Helms and Mitch McConnell, sponsored a non-binding resolution similar to a US House of Representatives resolution passed last month attacking Hun Sen.
The amended House resolution expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the culpability of Hun Sen for violations of international humanitarian law after 1978.”
The Senate resolution died when the legislative body’s session adjourned last month. It is unclear whether Helms and McConnell will re-sponsor the resolution when the new Senate session convenes in January.
The US has also been one of the countries most critical of Cambodia’s human-rights record and said it will not recognize the results of the election until a government forms that includes the opposition in a “meaningful role.”
In a Wednesday press conference at the Council of Ministers, Undersecretary of State for Information Sieng Lapresse told reporters that the government is trying to set the record straight.
“We have to showcase the achievements of Cambodia,” he said. “And we cannot forget the achievements by Samdech Hun Sen. They are good achievements.”
The letter bears copies of 28 signatures by government officials from the CPP or CPP-friendly parties.
Two US senators, John Kerry and John McCain, in an October letter expressed concern over the use of force against some peaceful demonstrators in September.