Hun Manet, the oldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the commander of the Ministry of Defense’s counterterrorism department, used the opening ceremony of a new building at a Phnom Penh pagoda Sunday to warn of the possible consequences of increased political division in the country since last year’s disputed national election.
Speaking to about 1,000 people at Wat Pothisatharam in Pur Senchey district, Lieutenant General Manet noted that the country’s history was one of tragic territorial losses born from a lack of solidarity between the Cambodian people.
“In the Mohanokor [Angkor] period, the northern border went until China and in the west it went until India, but unfortunately we had a war of more than 100 years, which made the country break up and the losses of land go on,” Lt. Gen. Manet told the crowd.
Lt. Gen. Manet went on to compare the current political climate to that before the election.
“For a while, we viewed each other as being together forever, but political tendencies have made us broken,” Lt. Gen. Manet said. “After the election, we divided. Friends who had always respected each other since their childhoods stopped being friends.”
“In the villages right now, friends, relatives, brothers and sisters have stopped speaking together, and have ordered their children to stop speaking together,” he added.
Lt. Gen. Manet then implored the audience, which also included members of the Cambodian Scouts and the CPP-aligned Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, not to reflexively label political opponents as “yuon,” a term for ethnic Vietnamese that can be used as a racial epithet. It is often used by supporters of the CNRP to refer to members and supporters of the ruling CPP, which began its life as the communist regime installed by occupying Vietnamese forces in 1979.
“Even if we are not from the same political tendency, do not be angry toward one another as we are all Khmer, the same,” Lt. Gen. Manet said.
“I appeal to you: Do not break apart, brothers and sisters—stick together.”