Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday marked the 39th an-niversary of retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s 1970 ouster, saying that the foreign powers that fomented the coup bore responsibility for the ensuing war and mass murder that swept Cambodia.
The National Assembly 39 years ago Tuesday abolished the mon-archy and ousted then-Prince Nor-odom Sihanouk, who called from abroad for a national uprising.
With the support of Vietnam, Khmer Rouge forces defeated the US-backed republican government of Lon Nol in 1975 and formed a government that received extensive Chinese aid.
“If Prince Norodom Sihanouk weren’t toppled, there wouldn’t have been a war, and there would have been no Khmer Rouge,” Hun Sen said in an address to the Edu-cation Ministry’s annual conference in Phnom Penh.
“Those people pretend to want to prosecute the Khmer Rouge. They supported the Khmer Rouge. They set fire to cause the war nationwide. They created war, and now they blame the government for not developing fast enough,” said Hun Sen, who was a deputy regimental commander in the Khmer Rouge before defecting from the movement in 1977.
Hun Sen said he had asked Jap-an, already Cambodia’s largest bilateral aid donor, to increase its assistance because of purportedly having supported the Khmer Rouge.
“I spoke with the Japanese am-bassador and said Japan must provide more aid because Japan also supported the Khmer Rouge,” he said.
A Japanese Embassy official said that a reply to questions submitted Wednesday evening seeking a response was not immediately available.
In Tuesday’s address, Hun Sen also called on the Education Minis-try to increase the quality of education offered in Masters and PhD courses.
“There are too many PhD graduates, and I suspect that some of them paid for their typing certificates or can’t even use computers,” he said.
Education Minster Im Sethy told the conference that there were currently 862 PhD candidates and 11,681 students in Masters programs in Cambodian universities.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teach-ers Association, said Wednesday that he agreed with Hun Sen’s call for higher-quality instruction.
“Too many PhD and Masters candidates graduate with low-level education, and I want the government to reform education policy,” he said by telephone.
Following Hun Sen’s remarks, SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said establishing the guilt of foreign powers in the bloodshed that envel-oped Cambodia was not a priority.
“Younger politicians like me do not want to know about the past. I want to forget about the past, in-cluding the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said by telephone.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)