Hun Sen Backs US in Campaign Against the Islamic State

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday announced his support for the U.S.-led effort to defeat the militant Islamic State, saying Cambodia “does not tolerate any kind of terrorism.”

Speaking during the launch of the government’s 2014 to 2018 National Strategic Development Plan at Phnom Penh’s Sofitel Hotel, Mr. Hun Sen laid out Cambodia’s stance on the threat posed by the Islamic State—also called ISIS and ISIL—which has beheaded two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.

“We don’t have the option of directly joining the campaign to prevent ISIS there [in Iraq and Syria], but we offer our support in all kinds of activities to destroy terrorism, and not only ISIS, but also al-Qaida and other groups,” the prime minister said.

Mr. Hun Sen added that although Cambodia is unlikely to become a target of terrorist attacks, officials needed to ensure that the country’s popularity among foreign visitors does not make it a haven for terrorists.

“We will not let Cambodia become a shelter for terrorists or a place for money laundering for terrorists,” he said. “We have condemned ISIS for killing American journalists and a Briton. We will continue to condemn criminal, brutal activities like this.”

Mr. Hun Sen then moved onto another foreign-policy issue that has garnered extensive media coverage in recent weeks, the Scottish referendum on Thursday on whether to break away from the U.K. and become an independent state.

“If Scotland separates, what will happen with the British? We are just monitoring this, we don’t have influence on Britain,” the prime minister said.

Turning his attention to domestic affairs, Mr. Hun Sen said he supported efforts to hold government ministers accountable through questioning by lawmakers in the National Assembly.

The opposition CNRP has recently summoned Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron and Health Minister Mam Bunheng to appear before parliamentary commissions for questioning.

“I want to have processes like this going on,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“And all ministers do not need to come to ask the prime minister, ‘Should I go and answer or not?’”

“When commissions at National Assembly summon you, you have to go…because you can clearly see in the Constitution and laws that ministers are responsible to the National Assembly and the prime minister.”

Mr. Hun Sen went on to congratulate both political parties for working together to resolve problems since CNRP lawmakers took their seats in the National Assembly last month following a 10-month boycott over last year’s disputed election results.

“The process of democracy requires multiple parties at the National Assembly,” he said.

The prime minister’s conciliatory comments come just over a week after he blasted CNRP vice president Kem Sokha for saying he wanted to unseat corrupt government ministers.

At the time, Mr. Hun Sen warned Mr. Sokha, who is also the first vice president of the National Assembly, that he could be voted out of his leadership position by the CPP if he continued to publicly criticize ministers.

“Sometimes people have asked the prime minister to clean up ministers because they say ministers have taken money for the prime minister…but saying such a thing is incorrect,” Mr. Hun Sen said Thursday.

“The prime minister has to protect his own ministers,” he added.

CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who returned from France on Thursday, also said the two sides needed to cooperate.

“If everything is right, we need to push each other to make it even better,” he told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport when asked about the recent back-and-forth between the prime minister and Mr. Sokha.

“But if everything is not right, we have to work together,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Sek Odom)

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