Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday rebuked those who have labeled the current political situation a “crisis,” urging his audience of young garment workers to be glad they did not have to live through the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.
Rights groups, analysts and observers have warned of a rapidly worsening political climate over the past several months, which has seen the arrests of rights workers and opposition lawmakers in cases widely seen as politically motivated. The CNRP announced a boycott of parliament last month in protest of the arrests of its lawmakers despite their legal immunity.
But at an event marking the opening of the 100th factory at the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, Mr. Hun Sen dismissed talk of any serious trouble.
“Cambodia today has no crisis,” he said. “Those who say there is a crisis, it’s their business and they have created it for themselves. So I am not responsible for that.”
“I am only responsible for issues related to protecting peace, political stability, social security, order, development and ending the people’s suffering, like, for example, the large-scale campaign recently to distribute water to the people,” he said, referring to drought relief efforts.
Mr. Hun Sen told the crowd of 11,000 garment workers—like most of the country, born after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979—of how he lost an eye helping wrest Phnom Penh from Pol Pot’s grip.
“Therefore, I will not let anyone—it doesn’t matter how venomous he is—destroy the peace we founded with difficulty,” said the prime minister, who was a Khmer Rouge soldier himself before fleeing to Vietnam.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said Mr. Hun Sen’s government, after more than 30 years in power, had plenty to atone for. “People are suffering from land grabbing, the destruction of natural resources, corruption and so on,” he said.
Asked whether he would label the political situation a crisis, he deferred to the party’s recent written statements. The CNRP’s latest petition to the king describes a “deteriorating political situation.”