In a video shared widely on social media over the weekend, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son Hun Manet called on Cambodians living in South Korea to avoid protests against the ruling CPP and instead be grateful to his father’s government for re-establishing ties with the thriving economy.
Mr. Manet, who was traveling to South Korea with his father for the 2014 Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, gave the speech during a dinner with a group of Cambodian officials, workers and students on Friday night.
He criticized the small group of Cambodian migrants who turned out to protest against Mr. Hun Sen’s government in Seoul on December 7, saying they should be appreciative. “If we didn’t have peace and stability, there would be no prosperity or reconnection with Korea, because our history with South Korea was cut before the war,” Mr. Manet said, referring to Cambodia’s decades of civil war.
“Do you know who reconnected the relations? It was Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen]…in 1996. Our initial relations were only with North Korea,” Mr. Manet told the dinner party.
Mr. Manet explained that the re-establishment of ties with South Korea had come in spite of opposition from then-First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh’s royalist Funcinpec party, which at the time led the coalition government.
“When we built this relation in 1996, there was an opposition [element] in our government, meaning that they didn’t want to build it,” Mr. Manet said. “But Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen] struggled to build it, until the ties grew larger.”
“Through this growing relationship, we have negotiated for opportunities that can bring our people to come to work and study here,” he said. “This is a positive thing.”
About 30,000 Cambodians presently work in South Korea, placing the country behind only Malaysia and Thailand as a destination for Cambodian workers, according to estimates last year from the Cambodian Center for Legal Education.
Despite Mr. Manet’s claims, the re-establishment of ties with South Korea in May 1996, which came three years after the U.N.-run elections, came with the public support of both Mr. Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh as co-premiers.
Yet Prince Ranariddh’s father, King Norodom Sihanouk, was a close friend of late North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and a fervent opponent of recognizing South Korea, having pledged to never let Cambodia recognize the country.
Mr. Manet, in his dinner speech Friday, said the Cambodians who protested in South Korea on December 7—calling for the release of more than a dozen recently imprisoned social and political activists—did not appreciate the CPP’s struggle to reopen ties with the country they now work in.
“They insulted us on our weak points, some of which we acknowledge, and on some points that are not reasonable,” he said, accusing the migrant protesters of hypocrisy.
“They said illegal Vietnamese migrants have to be arrested and sent back to Vietnam, but, in the meantime, some of them ask Korea not to arrest them and send them back.”
Mr. Manet also defended the recent arrests of activists—including CNRP official Meach Sovannara—and said Cambodian authorities had been much more lenient than authorities in South Korea would ever have been.
“Some of the people spread information about the arrest of Meach Sovannara and the protesters,” Mr. Manet said. “In fact, if you keep track of this, it was more than one year that they did activities and we didn’t do anything [in response].”
“If they tried to go and do this in Korea, without legal permission, they would be handcuffed and put in cars.”