Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that the government should adopt a new law in time for July’s national election in order to sanction politicians in the country who insult him in public.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he had grown tired of certain unnamed politicians who he claimed had constantly used slurs against him.
“I support the ethical behavior of politicians, and I would like to make it into a law,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “We should enact the law before the National Assembly earn their fourth mandate.”
“If anyone uses nasty words, they should be punished,” he continued, without elaborating on what those punishments would consist of.
Without naming the culprits, Mr. Hun Sen said he had been called all manner of slights, including “a blind man,” “a traitor,” “a country-seller” and “a Vietnamese slave.”
“I heard nasty, insulting words. They are so nasty, now they use them against me, so I have to insult them back to stop them,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Political analysts and opposition lawmakers said a law against insulting politicians could be used to curb freedom of expression in the country.
“It would be difficult to monitor and measure what words to deem insulting,” said SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua. “It would be in violation of freedom of expression, and implementing the law could also prove problematic.”
“The court is not just or impartial to all politicians,” she added. “It would be dangerous if this law was enacted.”
Although complaining about personal slurs against him, Mr. Hun Sen in the past has often made disparaging remarks against his critics.
The prime minister baffled international journalists visiting for the Asean Summit in April when he used a press conference to deliver a 30-minute tirade and to harangue critics, calling them “crazy analysts” and “stupid philosophers” and referred to one analyst with a bald head widely believed to be Lao Mong Hay, an independent political commentator based in the country.
In 2009, he also called a woman, without naming her, a “cheung klang,” which literally means “strong legged” and can also be used as a derogatory term.
Ms. Sochua later announced at a news conference that the remark was aimed at her and launched a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hun Sen. The prime minister then countersued for defamation and Ms. Sochua was found guilty.
Mr. Mong Hay said that he had never heard of a law on political ethics before, and that many countries simply had “rules of conduct” or ethical guidelines instead for politicians to follow.
“It would be very serious if the government creates a law on political ethics,” he said.