King Norodom Sihanouk implicitly confirmed killings and human rights abuses in Cambodia as he asserted his own position as a human rights defender in a Thursday interview.
Among the many people he aids are the widows and families of those killed for political reasons, the King said.
“The widows and families of people who have been tortured and killed—for reasons political or otherwise—came…to solicit my help,” he said, adding that he gave such widows and families $1,000 or $2,000 each. The King declared he “will always watch that there will be no political prisoners or ‘prisoners of conscience.’”
The King also indicated his support for overseas Cambodians’ right to political participation, which had been a heated issue during the July 26 elections.
“I fight—and will continue to fight—for Cambodians and overseas Cambodians’ right to vote and be elected,” the King said.
While the Constitution allows political participation of overseas Cambodians, the National Election Commission required them to return to Cambodia to register for the polls. The policy had been criticized as an obstacle that prevented up to 400,000 overseas Cambodians, most thought to be Funcinpec or Sam Rainsy Party supporters, from voting, according to a Sam Rainsy spokesman.
The King’s statements on behalf of freedom in Cambodia also covered the protection of the freedom of speech, for both Cambodian and foreign journalists, even when he said they maligned him.
“Concerning the liberty of the press, I recognize and help triumph the rights of foreign journalists to appear or circulate freely in our country,” he said.
“As for Cambodian journalists, I always amnesty or reprieve those whom one has condemned or arrested and put in prison.”
Those who drag me in the mud—very injustly—and insult me, slander me—without any justification—are all safe and sound, are never condemned or are always amnestied or reprieved and this,
without ever seeing the inside of a prison.”