Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet, announced on Sunday that he would not be attending a Khmer New Year parade he was invited to in Long Beach, California, in the face of vocal opposition from some of the community’s Cambodian-Americans.
According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Lieutenant General Manet was invited to join next month’s parade by the Cambodian Coordinating Council, a local group that organizes community events, following a request from the city’s Cambodian Consulate.
But on Tuesday, the paper reported, some 200 protesters demonstrated outside the Long Beach City Council building to have it denounce Lt. Gen. Manet’s visit and to get the premier’s son disinvited.
The protesters threatened to boycott the planned festivities if Lt. Gen. Manet showed up.
The pushback against the prime minister’s son followed a protest staged by some Cambodian-Americans against Mr. Hun Sen himself during a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Asean leaders in California last month. Members of the local Cambodian community—the largest outside of Cambodia—accuse Mr. Hun Sen and his family of running a kleptocracy rife with human rights abuses.
On Sunday, Mr. Manet took to his Facebook page to announce that he would not be joining the parade in order to avoid a confrontation between local factions for and against him.
“I and my working group have decided not to participate in the parade because we don’t want to see a conflict break out between Khmer and Khmer, and especially to avoid any violence between supporters and non-supporters during the event, which would cause our race to lose advantage,” he said in his post.
“Khmer New Year is a special occasion for our Khmer people and should unite us in a desire to support our race by working together to show the Khmer culture and civilization to the American people and other citizens,” he added. “It is not the time for supporters and non-supporters to show off their muscles, because it shows a break between Khmer and Khmer and gives our race a bad reputation.”
In an interview with local media later in the day, Lt. Gen. Manet, who has been put in charge of the CPP’s international outreach efforts, clarified that he was not calling off his trip to the U.S. altogether.
“I will travel to the United States of America during the upcoming Khmer New Year as scheduled, but I will not join the parade,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Manet added that he would be attending other programs, but did not elaborate.
Touch Vibol, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Foundation, which opposes the visit, said Mr. Hun Sen’s son had no business preaching unity.
“He is the wrong person to preach about working together when his ruling party has continuously harassed and intimidated any opposition to them,” he said in an online message.
“They don’t work together to solve the border issues, illegal land grabs, forced homelessness, institutionalized corruption and other human rights violations. He represents a party that has proven to only care about self-enrichment and preservation.”
Mr. Vibol said Mr. Manet was also wrong to suggest that there was a major split within Long Beach’s Cambodian community, claiming that the CPP’s supporters were in the clear minority.
“He seems to think we’re divided and fighting amongst ourselves when that is very far from the truth,” he said.
“The super-majority are united against him and his father’s rule. We will continue to fight, argue and resist him and his father. Our communities here are doing just fine without the ruling party attempting to meddle in our daily lives.”
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)